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Superintendent Search: Karl Paulson – Lakeview Superintendent

March 13, 2011

I have sent each Rochester Community Schools superintendent candidate questions about Advanced & Gifted Education.  Here are the questions and Karl Paulson‘s responses.  Other candidates’ responses will be added when they are received.

1) What advanced and gifted programs are currently offered in your school district?

2) What do you believe the ideal advanced and gifted program would be?

3) For Rochester Community Schools, what advanced and gifted program should be implemented based on your understanding of the surrounding community, the current finances, and the needs of RCS students?

4) What would your timeline be for implementing these programs?

5) Are you a supporter of the International Baccalaureate program and would you work to convert one or more elementary, middle, and high schools in RCS to the IB program?

Thank you and your group for your advocacy of gifted students.  Being a product of gifted and honors programs in my own middle and high school career (Livonia), I understand the value of challenging students where they are so they can progress at their own, optimal rate of learning.  Also, having children that are academically advanced is another personal motivator for me (my children are 11, 9, and 5).  My professional experience in four Michigan counties provides me the knowledge that traditional core academic programs often cause gifted students with exceptional talent to be bored. Similarly, traditional core academic programs cause students with disabilities to be frustrated.  I feel that “we” (the education establishment) have generally left out the important option of meeting students needs where they are and developing programming to meet those needs, particularly of gifted and honors students.  This gap in service-to-needs is a result of antiquated systems and delivery options that I believe will be changing dramatically over the next decade.

In developing a few quick thoughts to your questions, I must qualify that the totality of my responses can only be as complete as the information I am privy to with respect to Rochester.  However, I hope to demonstrate my advocacy for honors/gifted as it appears in my actions as Superintendent in Lakeview as I believe actions speak louder than words.  What can be accomplished or timelined in Rochester demands a clearer understanding of the financial and human resource facts behind the scenes that I am not privy to at this point.  So my answers should be taken in the proper context.

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1) The advanced and gifted academic support programs offered in Lakeview are evident since 2008-09 and growing each year as a result of our work under the Response to Intervention framework.  First, my gifted/honors vision began with a secondary honors structure (6-12) that was to provide four years in three (middle school), and five years in four (high school).  This would eventually create the opportunity for students, at graduation, to have earned as many as 50-60 college credits at Lakeview’s expense.  College costs are prohibitive, and the option of getting courses done through dual enrollment while in high school was very appealing to families in Lakeview.  Of course, this option is appealing for all of us that are parents and I would advocate this vision for any school district in which I worked.

We piloted the first 8th grade “Honors Algebra” section in 2008-09 to begin the overall development process. For 2009-10, I further challenged my middle school to develop honors programming for 6-8th Mathematics because it was the most sequential core offering and probably the easiest to implement.  A normal honors route of courses became 6th-Prealgebra, 7th-Algebra, 8th-Geometry.  Initially, the students could exit as 9th graders into a high school Algebra II course, with little change at Lakeview High School.  In year two (2010-11) we implemented 6th-8th Honors Language Arts.  For next year (2011-12), 6th-8th Honors Science and Honors Social Studies are being implemented.  As these students move forward, similar program changes are being implemented at the high school to continue challenging students as they move up.  The process will continue with the first group traveling up.  Additionally, my high school functions under a 4X4 block schedule, allowing students 8 courses annually versus 6.  This means students can double up on underclass core content classes to arrive at our Advanced Placement offerinigs earlier in their high school career (Biology, Chemistry, Calulus, Literature/Composition, Government, Economics, etc.).  My motivation for starting the honors sequencing in the middle school was to assist in preparing students for the rigor needed in Advanced Placement options.  I was not satisfied that our middle school program prepared students for the rigor of these courses because the high school AP success data was somewhat average.

This fall, my teacher bargaining team negotiated flexible staffing into our teacher contract to allow students at elementary, middle school, and high school, the option of working in one of our on-line academic providers as another option to move ahead.  Particularly in my elementary schools, gifted/honors programming is difficult because they are small in enrollment.  At this time, elementary students have the option of: 1) working ahead through on-line services or, 2) moving from the traditional grade level content to another higher grade level classroom for delivery of that content.  In other words, a 2nd grader could be assigned to the 4th grade for math instruction, if maturation appropriate (this is determined for each child).

Additionally, I am currently working with officials at Wayne State University on a contract to offer three WSU courses on-site in Lakeview each semester of 2011-12.  The courses we are hoping to offer in 2011-12 would not conflict with our current AP offerings and can fit nicely into the block schedule school day (1:15-2:45pm).  Either 11th or 12th grade students could enroll.  Coupling the 6th-8th honors, block schedules, on-line pull ahead, flexible schedule and staffing, and WSU courses rounds out the on-site options for Lakeview students to be able to arrive at my “four in three” and “five in four” vision from 2008.  As things are continuously evolving, they are also being evaluated for success and efficiency, so I suspect the structure will continue to change as the future unfolds.

Outside of Lakeview, we are part of consortiums so our students also have the ability to attend a rigorous math/science program in Warren Consolidated or the Macomb International Academy (IB) high school program.  Because of my interest in gifted/honors options, since 2008 I have chosen to be a member of the Superintendent’s Steering Committee at the Macomb IB program, so I am very familiar with the structure and rigor afforded through IB.

I hope this gives you some sense of my interest and recent actions on behalf of the honors and gifted students in Lakeview.  I would certainly bring this same philosophy to program development and research in Rochester.

2) Philosophically, the ideal educational program for any student, gifted or otherwise would be to deliver challenging content, in various modes of instruction, that is targeted at the student’s level of knowledge and understanding and challenges them.  The child’s academic achievement on standardized tests, grades, maturity level, teacher recommendations, and capacity to handle the challenges all need to be part of determining what students participate.  How I develeloped the programming options in Lakeview with current technology, staff expertise, available data and services is probably similar to what I would ask a Rochester team to research.  I’m leary to define to completely a “program” as technology is allowing creative, innovative thinkers to develop delivery systems we cannot even imagine today.  However, one issue I noted in my research about Rochester was a lack of real-time assessment data (true for most school systems today).  These kinds of assessment and data systems are crucial to determine where students are and how we would program to move them forward (at the individual, program, school and District level).  I have ideas on assessment, too, because we found this to be a problem two years ago in Lakeview, but I will leave this topic for another time.

3) Rochester certainly could choose to refocus some resources for purposes of implementing an honors/gifted sequence for students.  In most cases, the resources, particularly at the secondary level would simply be shifting costs from regular to honors sections (such as staffing, textbooks, etc.).  A district’s financial priorities are determined through the Strategic Plan and Mission Statement, and with Board discussion of the priorities. Would we say the same thing about band when instruments were needed?  Would we say the same thing about special education when a hearing device was needed?  Would we say the same thing about football when new uniforms were needed? Honors/gifted programming is just as important in my view.

4) For me to discuss a timeline on issues like these is somewhat premature and open-ended without having all the details of finances and human resources internally.  However, as I have done in Lakeview, I could forsee things moving very fast once the logistics, finances, human resources, and priorities were aligned.

5) As I noted above, my work in Macomb demonstrates I am a supporter of options for students, including the idea of the IB curriculum.  Because of Rochester’s size, I could conceptualize offering an IB program, and understand the concerns of SAGE parents where student seats are limited at the Bloomfield IB campus.  However, I can’t comment on the commitment Rochester has made to Bloomfield’s program and if that requires several more years before pulling away.  It is also hard to comment and/or review in any detail the logistics of putting something together in a series of RCS schools (elementary, middle, high) because of limits to available information.

I hope my responses are sufficient to give you some sense of my candor and openess to fielding questions from parents and community members.  I have demonstrated this behavior in Lakeview for 8 years (5 as assistant superintendent, and 3 as superintendent) and would bring the same to Rochester if I am selected to lead.

I believe my philosophy, experiences, and leadership style will be a good fit for Rochester and look forward to Monday night.  I look forward to having the opportunity to meet you in person at teh interviews if you attend.

Thanks,

Karl Paulson

Any members of Rochester SAGE, please take the time to introduce yourself to Mr. Paulson if you attend Monday’s interviews.

Thank you for reading Rochester SAGE!
Rochester Supports Advanced & Gifted Education!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 14, 2011 11:06 AM

    Now THIS is a good answer, “This gap in service-to-needs is a result of antiquated systems and delivery options that I believe will be changing dramatically over the next decade.”

    I like this too, “This fall, my teacher bargaining team negotiated flexible staffing into our teacher contract to allow students at elementary, middle school, and high school, the option of working in one of our on-line academic providers as another option to move ahead. ”

    This supports his later thought that, “I’m leary to define to completely a “program” as technology is allowing creative, innovative thinkers to develop delivery systems we cannot even imagine today. ”

    I like what I read from this applicant.

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