Voters deserve to know what School Board candidates think about the major initiatives of our school system. The APS Instructional Program Pathways (IPP) effort is one of those major initiatives. It deserves careful scrutiny from the School Board and the community because it will drive a lot of decision making, and because in its current form it raises more questions than it answers.
I'll admit that I'm a little bit obsessive when it comes to planning things. For example, a few years ago I had to move my dad and stepmom cross-country to get them closer to family and to find the right combination of health care providers to deal with my father's worsening dementia. In the months leading up to the move, I was conference-calling with siblings, researching assisted living options and Medicaid eligibility, consulting with social workers, and more. It was so important to have a plan.
Not everything in life requires that kind of careful planning--but the design of our public education system certainly does. The decisions we make about what kinds of knowledge and skills we're teaching in school, and how we go about teaching those, have a big impact on students and their families.
The APS Instructional Program Pathways (IPP) work is an ongoing exercise in instructional design. APS says that the IPP will “serve as a framework for making decisions around instructional visioning that will inform APS planning initiatives.” Once I got past the word “visioning” (I know it’s a valid Scrabble word, but the former English teacher in me doesn’t love it), it became apparent to me that the IPP is at the heart of our school system’s purpose and operation.
Our public schools play many roles in the lives of children, families, and community members, but it’s hard to argue with the idea that teaching and learning should be at the core. What kinds of knowledge, skills, and dispositions will kids need in order to live full and productive lives--and what kinds of instructional experiences and programs are we offering to support that development?
These are the kinds of questions that should drive the IPP. Instead, APS lists “Promoting demographic diversity in our programs and schools” and “Assisting with managing enrollment at all school levels” as two of the four IPP goals. While these are very important goals, they don’t belong in the IPP, the aim of which should be to provide thoughtfully-designed learning programs and experiences that reflect best practices and respond to students’ needs and interests.
In its current form, the IPP is preoccupied with managing enrollment and capacity issues: these appear to be the exclusive focus of the five priority areas identified by APS instructional leaders as part of the IPP visioning process this year.
If we really want to put instruction at the center, I think we need to reframe the IPP process. I’m advocating for a process that looks like this:
I’m also concerned that APS is assuming it has the right option programs and program pathways in place. The APS statement “ensure community is aware of existing programs and how to access” assumes that students and families simply don’t know about current programs and would be interested in participating if they did. That may not be a valid assumption. Instead, I think it’s important for APS to consider whether it is offering the right programs in response to community needs and students’ interests.
If you believe that our students deserve a stronger instructional vision and framework, I hope you’ll join me in providing this feedback to APS. If you believe that the School Board needs to insist on stronger instructional planning, I hope you’ll support my campaign.
Voters deserve to know what School Board candidates think about the APS proposed budget. Here are some of my takeaways about staffing and instructional costs; next week I’ll cover facilities and operations, central office administration, and overall budget sustainability. You’ll see equity highlighted throughout.
First, a few general headlines:
Six Takeaways on Staffing Costs
Staffing is the biggest spend for school districts, so it’s often the first place people look to find cost savings. Here’s what I am seeing in this category: