Students help district form competencies
Students are the main focus of the Douglas County School District’s competency-based system, but until now, they have had little input in it.
Superintendent Pendery Clark formed the student advisory council with an open membership to listen to what students think about district-wide matters.
Ten students met at the district office Thursday after school for the council’s second meeting and discussed the district’s arts and occupational education programs, competencies and its testing system and how to get the word out to other students.
“A lot of people feel really disenfranchised because they just don’t know what’s going to be on the ALT science test,” said junior Dan Riggs. “The other tests, most people think are easy, but the science test is a little more difficult.”
Clark explained there are some problems the district is still trying to iron out of the science competency.
“That was the ALT that more students failed than any other,” Clark said. “The major purpose is to provide foundations in all three areas – life science, physical science and earth science.”
However, many students in high school now haven’t had exposure to physical science, Clark said.
Sophomore Sarah Hobgood suggested requiring either the foundations of science course, which was created to solve the problem, or biology for 9th graders so students who have already passed the test and have plans to advance in science won’t be held back.
“It still ensures that people who normally wouldn’t take a science in the 9th grade do, but it wouldn’t restrict people who want to go ahead,” Hobgood said.
Riggs suggested an additional period be added to the school day to take care of some timing issues. Clark agreed it would help, but it is not easy because of teacher contract issues.
“Teachers can only teach five periods a day with one prep period. We know this is something teachers recognize as a problem, but it doesn’t mean we can’t have an extra period. We have thought about some teachers teaching half a day and then other teachers coming in for the rest of the day,” Clark said.
Junior Alex Cardinale told Clark he gets negative feedback from teachers about increased academic requirements.
“We can’t put teachers in a bind to only teach academics,” he said. “Arts is an important part of the process. It helps you to think clearly. Drama teaches you to learn your lines, much like studying for a test, but you also have to know the subtext, as much as you have to know the information and what it means.”
Clark said teachers and students don’t need to worry about losing arts.
“We have more drama than ever. Guitar was added. We’re committed to the arts. It’s part of the strategic plan,” Clark said. “In the future, the majority of the competencies will be met before students get to high school. The difficulty level of the competencies is written at the 9th grade level. To say we are going to lose the arts is really an assumption.”
The group agreed there was some misinformation among students and a meeting about the competencies is needed. At the next student advisory council meeting March 1 at 6:40 a.m. at the district office, the group will finalize plans for that meeting.
“There was good information here. My concern is now, will Dr. Clark do anything with it? There were some very good points that need to be discussed,” senior James Johnson said.
“It was a pretty good meeting,” Hobgood said. “I don’t know how many people would listen (to my complaints outside of this meeting). I think it is good we have people who are into not only complaining, but finding solutions.”