Attempt #1 of Being Less Afraid in 2019

Public comments given at tonight’s school board meeting:

Hi. I would like to make some comments regarding the push for equity in WJCC. I will preface by saying I definitely don’t know all of the solutions to every problem, but it is striking to me that in a division where 40% of our students are not white and nearly as many qualify for the free and reduced meal program the public conversations about equity I have witnessed or been a part of are continually held by middle-to-upper-class white people like the majority of this room, myself included.

As someone who received 12 college credits from the AP classes I took in high school, I fully understand the opportunity those classes can give students. But if we want more students succeeding in AP courses, don’t they need better foundations? How are we doing that when some AP courses have 4-5 students and other teachers have over 30 students or new collaborators each year that are unfamiliar with the courses? We also have multiple AP classes that take place in one semester due to the demands of block scheduling, meaning students finish their material in January and have to keep it fresh until May or students have significantly less time to prepare for the AP exam than they should in the spring. And while there are students signing up for AP exams, many AP students do not take the exam that qualifies them for potential college credit. One reason that I’ve heard from many of my students is that they aren’t confident they can do well in May when they’re done in January, but they stayed in the class for the GPA boost.

WJCC also increased the amount of leveling of our math classes with the re-introduction of teaching Algebra 1 in parts. There are tons of divisions across the country that get just as good, if not better, math scores on standardized tests, especially in the subgroups WJCC is concerned about, with 50-75% of the instructional time we use. Slower versions of our math courses tend to consist of more black and brown students than the regularly paced versions of the same courses. San Fransisco Unified School District, obviously more economically and racially diverse than WJCC, requires all students to take Algebra 1 as freshmen. In the first few years of implementing this, they have cut the percentage of students who need to repeat Algebra 1 to fewer than 10%.

A 2015 report from the CDC states that the average start time for middle and high school students in the state of Virginia was 8:04 AM with only 10% of divisions having an average start time before 8 AM. WJCC’s average start time for middle schools and high schools is 7:39 AM, nearly half an hour earlier than the vast majority of other divisions in the state. This group we are in is going to continue decreasing as large districts such as Chesterfield and Virginia Beach are planning on starting later in upcoming school years. Is start time a measure in which we want to lead the state?

There is much more that I’d be happy to discuss but I’ll end here. I do believe that the division’s communication is improving, I appreciate that teacher opinions are being solicited, and I am super excited to be building another Commonwealth Innovations course to be offered at all three high schools.

Thank you.

Following the meeting, a board member walked out to my car with me. During our 2 minute walk they told me:

  • my age (26) explains a lot,
  • Virginia is a “Right to Work” state,
  • they don’t generally like unions but think teacher unions are important and I should be more involved in ours, and
  • to remember that people can’t choose their color. 
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Author:

A high school math teacher trying to help her students find the world and find math through math.

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