Parents of students attending the Dupree Schools expressed concerns about their children’s experience with the customized learning program recently adopted by the school in a attempt to proactively address the quality of student performance on the South Dakota state tests.
“Where did the teachers go? Who’s helping them [students]? Seems like one kid can get ahead, and another gets behind. Is it because they are lazy? Or is it that they don’t understand?” asked parent Shannon Depoy.
“Is it our kid’s responsibility to help someone who is not coming along if it interferes with her own progress?” asked DePoy.
“I am not against customized learning,” said another parent, Jess Brewer. “But it seems better regulations need to be in place.”
Brewer also expressed concerns about how students are being held legitimately responsible for the learning of material, especally if they master the glitches of the system and work out ways to cheat it in order to pass.
Parents at the meeting in general agreed that the program has benefits.
Board Member Leo Bakeberg pointed out some of the benefits of customized learning.
“Everything is going to computers,” Bakeberg said.
He explained that the future will require students to be adept in computer usage.
Bakeberg also said that the concern expressed by several of the parents that students are being told to “Google it” for answers to questions is not necessarily a bad directive, as kids finding out information for themselves “is beneficial.”
“There is no better way to learn than to teach,” Bakeberg said in reference to DePoy’s reference to peer tutoring or collaborative learning work groups.
“I like the idea of customized learning, but I think it’s been thrown on too fast,” said parent Julie Thorstenson.
Thorstenson said that her student in grade 6 seems to be adjusting better to the mix of customized learning and traditional learning than her high school student.
“I just don’t think a lot of the foundation was in place before they got started,” Thorstenson said.
Justin Thorstenson said that he thinks there needs to be a teacher there proding students to keep working and press through the completion of work rather than letting students work entirely at their own pace.
On the other hand, there are some students who are unable to keep pace with what is called the “teacher’s pace” and this causes some of the students to work late into the night trying to catch up or keep up with the more rigorous pacing of the computer curriculum, Julie Thorstenson explained.
Several of the parents present also expressed concern about the grading methods on the computer and how that will look on paper for students who may want to go to college.
Parents wanted to know if their typically A or B student earns a C in the customized learning class, will that impact the ability for that student to attend a college like School of Mines?
DePoy and his wife Robyn also raised a question about essays that are graded on the computer, and if those essays are actually good, or just the manipulation of multi-syllable words that when strategically placed meet the computer’s criterias, and if a teacher graded it, would the grade be the same?
To all of these concerns, Superintendent Brian Shanks raised his notes to show the parents and said, “I’m listening.”
“We are going to revisit these things and take a look at what we can do to make this transition,” Shanks said to the parents.
“You are welcome to come in and meet with me or the teacher about it,” said Pandi Pittman, High School Principal to the parents.
After the school board meeting, Pittman said that her teachers were in the “implementation process.”
When asked if that meant that teachers are learning the computer curriculum and program as well as trying to define their role in a customized classroom, she said, “Yes.”
Shanks encouraged parents to come to the school and meet with him and Pittman about their concerns as they work through this new way of teaching together.
In football news, Shanks suggested that they move to continue for two more years scheduling only six games, which would leave the Tigers out of a chance to compete in the playoffs.
“I just do not think our numbers are solid enough in committing to an eight-game schedule,” said Shanks.
“What are the numbers you are looking at,” Bakeberg asked.
“We have 14 kids, 12 from the south – a lot who like to play, but they are just not solid enough,” Shanks said.
“I hate to disagree with you, but I think that if we are going to do it, we need to do it,” said Board Member Nate Greub.
“I am OK with it guys, either way, but I am just giving you my outlook on it,” said Shanks. “We might be able to recruit some kids, and keep them eligible, but I don’t know. Hopefully we won’t have to forfeit a game if we go with an eight-game schedule.”
“You will get more if you know that there is an option for going to state,” said Brewer.
After a bit more discussion between the board members, parents and Shanks, the board made a motion which was carried to plan for a 9-man, 8 game conference schedule during the 2017 season.
In other business, the board carried the motion establishing the school board election date for April 11, 2017.
The board also suggested the polling precincts be in Bridger, Red Scaffold, Thunder Butte and Cherry Creek and to authorize Connie Alspach to appoint the poll site judges and other workers as needed, both of which were carried in two seprarte motions.
Other business conducted can be found in the Dupree school board December meeting mintues.