School Board Meeting 3/10/10

The following message was given by Kentwood teacher Kara Bean to the School Board last night.  It reflects the concerns of many KEA members about the adoption process for new curriculum that has gone on recently.


Good Evening Dr. Vargas and School Board Members, My name is Kara Bean.

I am a Kent citizen and Language Arts teacher at Kentwood High School. I am here tonight to speak to you about an issue related to the adoption of the Language! Tier 2 and 3 intervention curriculum.

When I first began contemplating speaking before the Board earlier today, many of my colleagues tried to dissuade me. They shared the opinion that the decision had already been made and that the only outcome would be negative effects for my career. I seriously considered whether putting my career at the Kent School District in jeopardy was worth the information I am about to share with you tonight. Then I thought about my students. I thought about reading To Kill a Mockingbird with them and talking about taking a stand for what is right even when that stand is difficult. I thought about Atticus telling Scout that if he didn’t defend Tom Robinson, he wouldn’t be able to hold his head up in town or tell her and Jem what to do anymore. Although this situation is, of course, different, I realized that I couldn’t ask my students to do the right thing in their lives if I couldn’t. I have to speak to the Board, not because I want to, but because it is the right thing to do.

I have not yet received training for this program nor have I seen the materials, so I am not here to ask you to approve or reject it. I am simply here to share some information with you that came up in discussions related to this program because I think they illustrate some serious problems in our school district.

When the training for the Language! program began in February, many rumors about it began circling among teachers across the district. I heard that it was a great program, but not well-suited for high-school students, I heard it was a great program for any struggling learners, and I heard it was a terrible program. Not sure what to believe, I tried to get the facts.

Knowing that the School Board’s number 3 goal for 2010 is to provide quality and innovative learning environments for our students, and that the first action plan to meet that goal is to “establish a set of ‘research-based best practices,’” I, along with other teachers, asked what research said about the program. We were told that there was research, but we would get it later. We couldn’t understand why we had to wait for the research, but what could we do?

After hearing that the curriculum was going to be adopted at tonight’s meeting, I knew that I would be able to find the supporting research on the School District website as part of tonight’s agenda. When I looked at the proposal, I saw that Item 14 required a specific list of attachments: a staff development plan, copies of the evaluation tools, copies of the resource, and independent reviews. All of these were checked except the independent reviews. There was nothing listed in this box, nor were there any additional pages of reviews or research.

I’m sure that the research exists or the School District would not have spent a large sum of stimulus dollars on the purchase of the curriculum, but what I do not understand is why that research has not been shared with teachers, parents, or the public. Yet, thinking back over the years I have taught here, I have heard the phrase, “research says” over and over again without that research ever being shared with the teachers or community, and that’s not right. How do we know that the research actually says what we are told it says? How can we tell our students to be critical thinkers when we are told not to worry about the research, but just do our jobs?

We are supposed to be partners, working together with district administrators to identify, implement, and evaluate programs to best serve our students. If we can’t be trusted to have access to all of the information, then we are not truly collaborators. I urge you to change this and make us true partners in educating our students. You can start by doing something as simple as sharing the research you have used to make these decisions with us.

Thank you.


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4 Responses to “School Board Meeting 3/10/10”

  1. theresa Says:

    Bravo! Four teachers got up to speak about curriculum implementation without teacher input. Good practices makes sense. Top down directives do not. School board members were aghast to think that teacher’s fear for their jobs when they speak out. Yet, Jim Barrios did not respond when I informed him that principals are called whenever a teacher from their school speaks at a school board meeting! Even so, with two teachers now sitting on the board, there was a different tone to concerns and finely honed questions that were sharp were asked by school board members to the administrators who continue to be snared in their webs of falsehoods, understated bad news, and exaggerated good news

  2. Barbara Says:

    Nice Job, Kara…I was one of three KSD teachers to pilot the Language! program. I was the ONLY one to show up at a meeting to discuss it’s potential, and even my own recommendation was to continue the pilot…But no…..they adopted it K12, when only 3 high school teachers tried it, with NO DATA behind it. While I rather like the program, it is not good business to spend oodles of money on something there was no buy-in for. Again…”Where is the partnership?”

  3. Aghast Says:

    Yes, our administrators are retaliatory whenever a teacher speaks up to defend his/her students and other teachers. How do they retaliate? They will visit your classroom more times than your other colleagues–to make you uncomfortable. They will evaluate you in a harsher light than your colleagues–in other words, you get disciplined over the same things others do who aren’t disciplined. They’ll change your teaching assignment every 2-3 years, while others get to stay in their grade level or subject area. WAKE UP SCHOOL BOARD! THIS IS HOW YOUR TEACHERS ARE BEING TREATED.

  4. Barbara Says:

    Maybe that is why I’ve moved classrooms 5 out of the 6 years in my current building??? Never thought of it as retaliation, more of ineptness.

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