Shoreline School District considers K-5, 6-8 Grade Level Models

Saturday, May 14, 2016

By Marianne Deal Stephens

On May 9, 2016 the Shoreline School Board had a Study Session* to hear about the work of the Instructional Program Planning Committee (IPPC) and the Facility Planning Committee. This school year, the District “made a commitment to evaluate future instructional configurations to meet the needs of students.” The IPPC, co-chaired by Director of Teacher Professional Practice and Evaluation Anzara Miller and Assistant Superintendent Brian Schultz, included many stakeholders, including district administrators, teachers, principals, classified staff, parents, and specialists.

The IPPC was tasked to examine three areas: preschool configuration, Highly Capable programs configuration, and grade band configuration. As they examined the areas, the committee was asked to reflect on current information such as: “instructional programming; standards alignment and requirements; best practices for delivery of rigorous content; addressing the social emotional needs of students; anticipated future needs.”

While IPPC recommendations could have ramifications for facilities, Assistant Superintendent Brian Schultz explained that the committee’s purpose was “to address the instructional needs of students and staff”. As they considered the instructional programs, the IPPC focused on the social emotional needs of students as well as efficiencies.

Preschool Programs
Hillery Clark, Early Childhood Education Specialist, explained both the current preschool configuration and the recommendation of the committee. Shoreline operates three programs:

Source:  Shoreline School District

The waiting lists show that there is greater need and demand than the District can currently offer. Federal Head Start Funding may begin covering full day programs; the District has requested funding for five full day classrooms.

The IPPC recommends a blending of staff and facilities so that the three preschool programs could share customized facilities (i.e., child friendly bathrooms) and increase access to all of the programs.

Source:  Shoreline School District

Highly Capable Programs

Every October, all Shoreline kindergarten students are screened for the Highly Capable Program. Students may also be nominated at any grade level by parents, teachers, friends, or themselves for testing. Selection is based on the Iowa Assessments (Reading and Math) and the Cognitive Abilities Test. The configuration of the program varies by grade level (see Highly Capable Program on the District website). At this time, the IPPC does not recommend a configuration change, but does suggest further research: “More time is needed and we recommend a committee be formed to explore research and best practices for the Highly Capable Program, grades K-12.”

Grade Model

The most complex question in front of the IPPC was whether the current K-6 and 7-8 configurations best serve the instructional needs of students and staff. Professional Development Specialist Anzara Miller explained how the group: examined current instructional programs; looked at K-8 learning standards by content areas; examined curriculum; learned from District TOSAs (Teachers on Special Assignments who support teachers in a particular subject area); and delved into the differences between 5th and 6th grade. Both Common Core State Standards and State curriculum are arranged in K-5 and 6-8 grade bands (see OSPI Washington State K-12 Learning Standards).

Grade Model: Math
Anzara Miller explained that there is a big shift between 5th and 6th grade math in the major content strands. To better understand the shift, the committee did problems from both 5th and 6th grade math curricula and learned that “a deep level of content knowledge” is necessary for 6th grade math.

Source:  Shoreline School District

Grade Model: Science
Ridgecrest 6th Grade Teacher Joe Peterson presented the committee’s work in the science content area. He noted that “we are asking students to do things that our classrooms are not necessarily equipped to do,” since they eat and do science at their desks and do not have specialized equipment or labs.

Source:  Shoreline School District

Main considerations for science are:  proper lab space and equipment; time limitations (science is 1-2 hours/ week in elementary vs. 1 hour/ day in middle school); and level of teacher expertise. It was noted that the District has looked for but could not find a 6th grade science curriculum that would both meet required standards and be possible in current facilities. Einstein Principal Nyla Fritz explained that many of the Next Generation Science Standards [Common Core standards are only for Math and English Language Arts] that should be met in 6th grade are pushed into 7th and 8th grade, so those years of science must make up for what cannot be accomplished in 6th grade.

Grade Model: English Language Arts and Social Studies
For English Language Arts (ELA) and Social Studies, standards and curriculum are designed for grades K-5 and 6-8. Currently, sixth grade students and teachers cannot access the full curriculum available. In addition, 6th grade teachers cannot participate in professional development with their 7th and 8th grade colleagues.

Grade Model: ELL Impacts
English Language Learner TOSA Melissa Sargent explained that ELL students have particular difficulties with the 6th grade ELA Springboard curriculum. Unlike the 5th grade ELA Wonders curriculum, Springboard only has one level and includes fewer redundancies for language learners. In middle school, a specialized ELA class for ELL students proceeds at an accessible rate; this model would provide more support for 6th grade ELL students than elementary pullout support.

Source:  Shoreline School District

Grade Model: Social Emotional Needs
Einstein Principal Nyla Fritz described how students’ social and emotional needs were a “constant piece” in the committee’s conversations. In the 11-14 age range, kids are going through the biggest period of brain growth since the time they were babies, and this adolescent growth is happening earlier than it used to. Research shows that fewer transitions are better, and with a two-year middle school, the kids are transitioning in and then right back out.

Source:  Shoreline School District

Parent Jaime Lopez shared that when he was first on the committee, “no way did I think that I would want my kid there [at middle school for 6th grade].” However, having looked at curriculum, he sees that K-5 makes sense, and when he considers the big transition of adolescence, he sees that “a third year in middle school would be beneficial.” He explained that the group explored this dimension thoroughly through a member-led subcommittee, and he thinks that the IPPC made the correct recommendation. The unanimously endorsed recommendation reads:

“The IPPC recommends that a 6/7/8 middle school configuration best meets the instructional and social-emotional needs of our students. Additionally, we recommend careful study and involvement of stakeholders in shaping best practices for Shoreline 6/7/8 middle school models.”
Source: Shoreline School District IPPC Recommendations May 9, 2016 

Assistant Superintendent Brian Schultz shared that the District had hoped for an 80% consensus among IPPC members, but ended up with unanimous recommendations. He reiterated that the charge of the committee was to look at instructional needs, and they looked at pieces of the needs and at the totality of the programs. The IPPC also researched nearby districts, and most have had a K-5 and 6-8 configuration for a long time. Shoreline is an “outlier.”

Grade Model: Next Steps
The IPPC recommendations will be passed to the facilities committee, which also has a broad stakeholder base. School Board Director Mike Jacobs expressed that he wants the process to move forward yet he also wants “the community to come to the microphone” to weigh in on any major decisions.

Acknowledging the importance of communication and feedback, Brian Schultz stated that “we have a strong relationship with our community and don’t want to lose one ounce of that trust.” At the Board Meeting following the Study Session, the Board voted to pass the recommendations to the Facilities Committee. It was noted that any changes, should they come about, would take years to implement.

Facilities Planning Update
Deputy Superintendent Marla Miller offered a very brief update on the Facilities Planning Committee. The committee has overseen a detailed assessment of conditions of the District buildings and has studied impacts of growth and class size changes. The committee will consider the IPPC’s recommendations and come out soon with a “preferred package for the next round of facility improvements” as well as “timing for financing and construction of the highest priority projects.” Any major construction would involve a two year hearing process.

*School Board Study Sessions are held to offer the Board an in-depth look at an issue. Minutes from Study Sessions in the past year can be found here.


Sheila Long,  May 16, 2016 at 9:36 AM  

6-8 makes sense for learning, but having worked in a 6-8, the 6th graders still REALLY need recess! Perhaps an extra break can be worked into the day. When the only 'recess' was combined with lunch, many kids skipped eating in order to have time to run around. Not a good idea nor afternoon.

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