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Superintendent Search: Evaluating Geraldine Moore

March 24, 2011

Mrs. Geraldine Moore is the second in the three superintendent candidates to be interviewed in the finalist round.  Mr. Fred Clarke will be interviewed tomorrow, but my review of him will be much more limited as the RCS Board of Education will be voting after his interview and I want to allow you to have time to contact the board via their web page.

Today I had the opportunity to ask Mrs. Moore the questions the other superintendent candidates had already answered.  Mrs. Moore preferred to follow the process set out by the Board and I respect her decision on that.

The questions were:

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?

My transcription of her response follows.  It is an off the cuff answer and not a prepared speech.

Currently in Rochester to say per se that there is a gifted and talented program, I would not say that. What we have is differentiation that occurs in the elementary schools.  Currently students in math can get placed and go at a faster pace in middle school.  In languages arts, they have not, so actually for next year I’ve put in an advanced languages arts class for sixth grade that would focus on (inaudible).  And then at high school obviously you have the AP courses.  And at one point students were not really, when we went into the K-12 reform or restructuring, AP classes were pretty much for students as they got to 11th grade.  And those have been moved so that students, generally in freshman year they wouldn’t take an AP class, but by 10th grade they can take an AP class.

The pieces on differentiation, if differentiation is done correctly with students being tested and re-tested, so that if we were a group and we were in a class you would pre-test children to see what’s their knowledge base, where they currently are, if they already, if they don’t know it.  You would kind of divide your class out or the other way it does occur is if the three of us, let’s just say, we were third grade teachers working and you  can test and pre-test students so that they are placed so that you are moving students ahead.  I think the key is the growth of the child.  And I’ll just give an example.  If a child in kindergarten for example takes the Dibbles Test which is to look at letter recognition and sound which a pre-test to kind of have an idea where they are for reading.  And if the score you are looking for is a ten at kindergarten for the first two weeks and a student came out and they had a 34, should that student sit there all year while the other students are moving toward that when they have already achieved that goal?  And my answer would be “no” because that’s where differentiation.  You have to come up with something to meet the needs of the student and I think that it’s really important that students have that piece put into place to meet their needs.

What you believe a gifted and talented program would be, one of the things that I would say and I say it for all but it would certainly meet the needs of gifted and talented.  Students that are in Special Ed have an IEP and it is an Individual Education Plan.  We don’t have any plans in place and so, prior to coming to Rochester I was in, at Wheaton and as well in Clarkston, I was over a gifted and talented program.  Obviously, as sources started to dry up in Illinois, it was a little different funding than it is here in Michigan, but when I came and I was at Clarkston, the funding resources (inaudible) used to have a pretty strong gifted and talented consulting program out of Oakland Schools.  The state started taking away money.  Pretty soon that dried up and they didn’t have that.  So what we did implement and what I worked with teachers to put into place is what I call an SEP, a Student Education Plan.  And a Student Education Plan is that every…  At that point it was that point it was for every child that was identified as having needs that we weren’t meeting.  We still did differentiation but coming up with a plan for that student so that you got a year of growth.  And in that year of growth it could be a variety of things that would occur from differentiation to … things like Future Problem Solvers, different kinds of things that parents could get involved in and the teacher would get involved in, Word Master, Math Olympiad, Destination Imagination.  But the parents, along with the teacher, along with the specialist would come up with the plan for that student.  Again students have different strengths.  Some students may be gifted in talented in music.  Some may be in the languages.  Some may be in math and science.  And so, obviously at elementary you will still want to be working at meeting the needs overall for the child.  But that is a piece that I think can be done and I’ve seen it done and actually it’s one of the things that I’m go to be talking about tonight, but I believe all children should have an educational development plan as we are moving towards the 21st century.  So I think that answers.

As far as the ideal, what I would I say is here in Rochester is, I think it really is important on that Language Arts that and that was why I did bring an a consultant last year to evaluate what the program was, what we were doing to meet the needs of students.  If we are going to be College Ready, Career Ready and a student comes out of fifth grade and they are already reading or writing at a seventh or eighth grade level, then you want to be sure you are meeting their needs and moving them forward.  So think those are the pieces that we have to continue to look at because I think it is essential that students have a year of growth.  That is the only way that we’re going to help children, but it has to be a partnership.  It’s not just the teacher.  It has to be the parents, the student, and setting high expectations to go towards that.  It ties into gifted and talented but I think it really ties into all children.  Because no child should not have a year of growth.

Understanding the surrounding communities.  I think unfortunately given the budget and what is happening, where there had been gifted and talented specialists or consultants.  Actually Rochester at one point had a gifted and that was Pat DeJaeger, was in charge of gifted and talented here.  And as resources and funding have gone away, that piece that has not (inaudible).  So what you have to do is be creative on meeting the needs.  But I do think there are ways as I’ve mentioned that with appropriate differentiation and the Student Education Plan to help meeting the needs.  And kind of going into the next part, the timeline for implementation is that it is already starting to occur here, and if I was superintendent I already know one of the directions is really, and I just talked with the building principals, is looking at that Student Education Plan.  I know it’s not hard.  I’ve already done it.  And I think that is critical because if I’m a parent and you’re sending your most precious commodity, your children, you want, I want a year of growth for my children and so everybody would want that.  And so what do we need to know and do, given that children should be, and you’ll see different maps and things, but realistically in the field of education, children and their education, their success is the center, whether you have spokes coming off the circles or whatever.  That is the business we’re in.  And if our children are going to succeed and move forward in a global economy, we need to be moving.

Now Rochester is a great school district and we have a lot when you look at our scores and obviously we are moving towards College Ready, Career Ready, Life Ready and really trying to raise the bar. And obviously the state comes up with MEAP and that fluctuates just like they do.  I think once we get to the common core and have an assessment that truly aligns that will certainly give us a better idea where students are.

And then the last question that you asked was about the International Baccalaureate.  About I believe three or four years ago, I did go, I sit on the Steering Committee for the International Academy as a representative of Rochester because we have a hundred-plus that go there depending on if we have international students that parents move back and are expatriate back because of jobs.  And I did go and talk to the principal at that time and it was Bert Ochma, who is retired, but asked about possibly Rochester becoming an IA North.  They were not interested at the time, but I think there’s once piece that obviously that the IA needs to have is students coming in and we have 100 seats right now.  The issue with possibly having an International Baccalaureate, whether it is high school, middle or elementary here, it is about a three year process to go to get started and to get to that point and it costs approximately $100,000 before you ever really get that fruitful.  I think there might be other ways to meet the needs of students if we really look at 21st century learning in a global and then I’m going to talk about that tonight.  But if you really looking at breaking down the walls and having education for students that’s anytime, anywhere and obviously putting computers or what you have in for students costs money, but if again you go back to that is what we need to be doing then we have to set our priorities so that’s the focus we need to be on.

(transcription ends)

Mrs. Moore also indicated to another questioner that the Learning Consultants were a very important part of schools and part of the budget she does not believe should be cut.  According to her, Learning Consultants are supposed to be leaders in providing differentiated curriculum to both ends of the spectrum.

When asked about what courses she had taken or books she had read in regards to educating gifted students, her responses were The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner and A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink.  The descriptions are below:

The Global Achievement Gap: Wagner, a Harvard education professor, begins by offering his astute assessment of secondary education in the U.S. today and how it fails to produce graduates who are “jury ready” (i.e., able to analyze an argument, weigh evidence, and detect bias). He then presents a concise manifesto for the steps needed to “reinvent the education profession.” His thesis revolves around “Seven Survival skills”—the core competencies he deems necessary for success both in college and in the twenty-first-century workforce. These encompass problem solving and critical thinking, collaboration across networks, adaptability, initiative, effective oral and written communication, analyzing information, and developing curiosity and imagination. Wagner visits a wide spectrum of schools, both public and private, meets with teachers and administrators, and demonstrates how these survival skills have been forgotten in the preparation for mandatory tests. He stresses the importance of being able to analyze new information and apply it to new situations in the “globalknowledge economy,” then details the programs, including team teaching, at a few innovative schools that are effectively meeting this challenge.

A Whole New Mind –
Lawyers. Accountants. Computer programmers. That’s what our parents encouraged us to become when we grew up. But Mom and Dad were wrong. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind. The era of “left brain” dominance, and the Information Age that it engendered, are giving way to a new world in which “right brain” qualities-inventiveness, empathy, meaning-predominate. That’s the argument at the center of this provocative and original book, which uses the two sides of our brains as a metaphor for understanding the contours of our times.

In this insightful and entertaining book, which has been translated into 20 languages, Daniel H. Pink offers a fresh look at what it takes to excel. A Whole New Mind reveals the six essential aptitudes on which professional success and personal fulfillment now depend, and includes a series of hands-on exercises culled from experts around the world to help readers sharpen the necessary abilities. This book will change not only how we see the world but how we experience it as well.

Based on the descriptions, I would not consider either book truly aimed at educating gifted students.  However, I have not read either book, so only present these as books she considers relevant to gifted education.  I hope that Mrs. Moore will take the time to read more on gifted education to best meet the needs of our community.

My first concern with Mrs. Moore is that she has been the Assistant Superintendent for Instruction since July 2006 and there is not adequate education for advanced and gifted students.  Some schools have more programs than others, but there are schools that have little and parents need to beg for what they can get.  If Mrs. Moore becomes superintendent, will she be more effective in having G/T programs implemented across all the schools?

My second concern is that Mrs. Moore does seem to have different ideas on what is best for educating gifted students than many experts in giftedness and many parents of gifted children.  I would recommend she consult with experts from the Davidson Institute and read A Nation Deceived.  I would also recommend a superintendent committee on advanced and gifted education that would have parents, teachers, learning consultants, experts, and board members.  This committee could present the administration with budget-conscious alternatives for G/T students.

Despite my concerns, I do believe that Mrs. Moore understands the importance of educating G/T students.  She has brought in a G/T consultant who visited each school.  The consultant reported that Differentiated Instruction was occurring at the elementary schools but not to the extent it needed to be.  Based on the consultant’s recommendation, additional opportunities for G/T education will be added at the middle school including advanced language arts classes for sixth graders.  Additional AP classes have been added in the high schools.

Mrs. Moore also has begun a book study with the elementary principals on what is true Differentiated Instruction and making sure it happens at each school.  In addition, Mrs. Moore would like to explore clustering, having the gifted and talented students in one grade placed in the same classroom to make differentiation easier and letting the G/T students grow together.

I also really like her Student Education Plans and making sure that each student gets a full year’s learning each year instead of just meeting grade standards.  This involves the parent right off the bat instead of requiring us to schedule meetings to get advanced education for our children.  I hope she understands that a full year’s learning may be significantly more for a gifted student.

She has repeatedly stated that all students must be educated including those at the top end of the spectrum.  This appears to be very important to her.

It is my recommendation that Mrs. Moore be strongly considered for the position of Superintendent of Rochester Community Schools.  Should you agree, please contact the Board via their web page.

Together we can make a difference for advanced and gifted children!

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

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