By STEVEN PENN
During a specially called meeting Thursday night, the school board here decided to continue with the Mass Customized Learning program (MCL) recently implemented in the corporation, but did tweak the program in an effort to make it better.
The MCL pilots were instituted throughout the school corporation in various subjects at the beginning of this school year. The idea is to allow students to take control over their own education and achieve mastery level learning before advancing. A typical lesson consists of a pre-test, work stations, direct instruction, post-test, remediation if necessary, and then a performance assessment, which must be completed before the student can move on.
The performance assessment allows teachers to gauge whether a student is truly ready to move on to the next topic, by making the student explain and apply the newly learned skill, not just answer multiple choice questions. The pilots also utilize technology such as iPads.
To start the meeting, the board heard testimonies from members of the community regarding the future of the MCL classes.
After the public input, the board discussed the program amongst themselves.
Board President Bill Bradshaw gave a quick recap of the events leading up to the special meeting.
“At the regular board meeting, a week ago Monday, a motion was made to continue and expand the MCL program,” he said. “That motion was voted down. Another vote was made by Dr. (Michael) Beaty to table further discussion on that issue, or further motions. More than one motion can be made on an item. Thanks to him, we’re here tonight. But it does give everyone a chance to speak and we wanted that to occur and I think the board needs to discuss some of the issues concerning this program. The fact that that was voted down, does it mean that can’t continue? No. It means that motion can’t come up again. To continue and expand is already voted on. Could you vote to continue the program? Yes. But it has to be a different motion. That’s my understanding.”
One of the main reasons for the motion being voted down at the last regularly scheduled meeting was that not enough of the board members felt they had adequate information to make a decision.
“My biggest concern, because now that it’s here and I’m sitting on the board, my stamp goes on it,” Beaty said. “I don’t do anything second class ... if it’s going to be done, it’s going to be done right.”
Board member Matt Steward commended the community for the level of discussion that has taken place.
“I think the good thing about this debate is this year, I feel that the community has probably had more conversation about education than we have for maybe a decade or more,” he said. “I think that’s fantastic.”
He added that whatever the stance on the MCL program, one thing everyone can agree on is that a change has to be made.
“The fact is that everyone agrees that perhaps our traditional classes are ... lacking,” he said. “I think that’s why many of the parents I’ve talked to are so supportive of the pilot program, because they feel this is their alternative to the regular classroom, which is what we’ve experienced over the last few years.”
It was noted that even though there were some concerns throughout the corporation, there were many areas of excellence, like the high school’s 93 percent passing algebra scores, which are the highest scores in the county.
After extensive discussion between board members and faculty who were on hand, the board decided it would be advantageous to have the MCL pilot programs be more focused on specific subjects to make it easier to collect and track data, so as to accurately gauge how the pilots are doing.
Board member Scott Bess gave a very detailed and specific motion.
“Based on discussion tonight, we continue with the pilot program in math K through 8 with the number of classes determined by parent choice and teacher availability,” Bess said. “We also continue the English language arts (pilots) K through 2, same thing — with parent opt-in, teacher availability — with the caveat that all other subjects are taught in a method based on teacher and administrator choice.”
After the motion, Bess gave some clarification.
“That (caveat) allows for those classes that are being taught — I use the example of seventh-grade science — if they want to do what they’re doing in the classroom today, they can keep doing that,” he said. “ ... All this says is we’re going to give parents the option for those grade levels in math and English and language arts, K through 2, to continue to participate in the pilot. (The board will continue) to evaluate them, to get better at it, tweak it, change it, and move forward.”
The motion was seconded by Steward and then passed unanimously.
The Danville School Board regularly meets at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at Danville South Elementary School.