Tag Archives: pe

Curriculum committee recap: 6/1

Tonight I sat in on the Curriculum and Program Committee meeting, which Commissioner Fewer graciously agreed to augment due to interest in the Gateway to College and JROTC Independent Study resolutions on the part of the full board.  Before I get to those two discussions, however, a few words about an update on the district’s draft Technology Plan.

SchoolLoop, a new online tool that will help parents, students, teachers and administrators connect with each other and share information about student progress, is almost here! It’s being piloted at 20 sites this year (I know Aptos Middle School is one, but not sure where else), with great reviews.  It should be rolled out at every school in the fall, and I can’t wait. However, to fully realize the vision of student, school and home connected-ness (not just SchoolLoop but laptops for all, interactive whiteboards, and work to integrate technology into every corner of our curriculum), it will take an almost obscene amount of money — $36 million at least. At least we are completing the first and very important step by creating a solid plan.

We also heard an update from the Program Placement committee, and I learned that a K-12 Special Education Master Plan has been proposed. (“Master Plan” is the new buzzword in the district these days, because of the success of the Arts Education Master Plan as a way of defining objectives and gathering support from internal and external resources. That’s why we have a new P.E. Master Plan, a draft Technology Master Plan, and now apparently a Special Education Master Plan in its infancy). Anyway, I’ll be interested in seeing what becomes of this idea.

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Recap: May 26 regular meeting

I’m sore and sleepy today — seven hours in a hot, crowded meeting that lasts until 1 a.m. will do that to you. A very brief recap:

  • The Parent Advisory Council presented some very interesting statistics on participation and availability of after-school programs in SFUSD; information that needs to be absorbed and addressed by the Board on a night with a less packed agenda. Commissioner Fewer plans to bring this topic to the next Curriculum committee meeting, on June 1 at 4:30 p.m. in the Board room.
  • The San Francisco Unified School District has now aligned its graduation requirements with the A-G course sequence required for admission to the University of California and the California State University system, starting with the class of 2014. This is really a historic action and cements our commitment as a district to graduating every student college- or career-ready. Vote: 7-0 in favor.
  • The Board passed the P.E. Master Plan, which lays out a strategy to improve and expand our P.E. offerings in the coming years (the source of funds will be the funding stream provided by the Public Education Enrichment Fund–aka “Prop. H”). There was some discussion about whether the new requirement that all students take four years of P.E. (if students pass the state fitness test they may opt out of P.E. in grades 11 and 12) is too restrictive, given the Board’s concurrent discussion about providing alternative P.E. programs in certain cases. The General Counsel said, however, that the Board may create alternative programs at a later time as a “clarification” of this policy.  Vote: 7-0 in favor.
  • The Board had a lengthy discussion on a proposed partnership between City College, Communities of Opportunity and SFUSD to create a “Gateway to College” program at City College’s Southeast campus to re-engage students who have dropped out and get them back on a college path. There are many advantages and pluses to this proposal, since everyone agrees we have collectively failed these students; a multi-institution partnership is a great way to work to fix this problem. The objections center around the location: there are not extensive course offerings or support services for this group at the Southeast campus currently, and in the opinion of some Board members, the location does not provide the college experience that these students may need. In the end we amended the proposal to keep discussing locations while allowing the district to move forward with acquiring required waivers from the state. Vote: 7-0 in favor.
  • The Board unanimously passed resolutions calling for a Parent Engagement Plan and a Student Feedback System.
  • Many members of the public were waiting to comment on Commissioner Yee and Kim’s proposal to allow students in JROTC the ability to meet the P.E. requirement through an independent study program that would be supervised by the JROTC instructors. Originally, the plan was that the Board would vote to suspend the rules and act on the proposal last night. But by the time the item came up (well after 11 p.m.), Commissioner Mendoza had long departed and there were not enough votes to suspend the rules (this action requires a supermajority of the board, not a supermajority of the quorum). In the end, the item was referred to the Curriculum Committee (June 1, 4:30 p.m. in the Board room) for discussion, and will return to the full Board at the June 9 regular meeting.
  • National Urban Alliance — a controversial professional development plan proposed for 20 high schools at a cost of $2.7 million between now and June 2010 over two years — passed 4 votes (Yee, Kim, Fewer, Maufas) to 1 (Norton).

P.E. and JROTC

I am getting a lot of mail about P.E. and JROTC, and a great deal from P.E. supporters who don’t think the course should be allowed as an alternative to P.E.  I’m sorry, but I disagree.

It’s true that in recent years, the state has made great progress in raising standards for physical education. It has beefed up its content standards, as well as its requirements. It’s important for us to teach students to value and achieve physical fitness, to understand how to live healthfully, and help them draw the connection between physical and emotional health. It’s also true that earning a credential to teach P.E. requires a significant commitment of time and effort.

What I disagree with is the insistence that only P.E. can achieve these goals. Yes:  in many (and even most!) cases, traditional P.E. can help students learn what they need to know in order to live a healthy lifestyle and be physically fit. But in some cases, traditional P.E. is counter-productive, and I question whether it’s a wise course to insist on a one-size-fits-all approach. The fact is that there are alternatives, from competitive athletics, marching band, dance and, yes, JROTC,  which can all provide the vigorous physical activity required by the state, while also engaging students and involving them in activities they are committed to and  which they enjoy.

I applaud our efforts, through the P.E. Master Plan, to improve our P.E. instruction and better align that instruction to the state content standards. However, I don’t see that work as the only way to get to our overarching goal of helping students learn the benefits of being physically fit.  To my mind, the most important thing is to help students find a physical activity they enjoy, and one they will stick with in order to live a healthy and fit life. So I’m sorry, but I think it’s important to allow students as many alternatives as we can if the outcome is that they will ultimately learn how to respect themselves, respect their bodies, and make choices that lead to a healthy, long, and fulfilling life.

I also reject the contention that allowing qualified alternative courses to satisfy the state’s P.E. requirements somehow cheapens the credential that certified P.E. teachers work so hard to earn. This isn’t about the teachers! This is about finding the best ways to reach and engage every child in the quest to help young people live healthier lives.  I’m sorry if P.E. teachers feel their professional qualifications are somehow dismissed; I don’t endorse that view. But I also don’t endorse the view that it’s disrespectful to P.E. teachers to allow students a range of options to satisfy a requirement.

Finally, it’s come to my attention that a district employee, acting in an official capacity as a supervisor, sent an email to many of our P.E. teachers claiming that some high school P.E. teachers could lose their jobs if the district again allows students an alternative pathway to traditional P.E.  Aside from the fact that this claim couldn’t be further from the truth, it’s also an outrageous abuse of this employee’s responsibilities as a supervisor and a blatant attempt to manipulate teachers in order to influence an action of the Board. (Wouldn’t you write the Board if a supervisor told you your job might depend on it?)

Bottom line: with the new P.E. master plan we will have need for more, not fewer P.E. teachers, regardless of what happens with JROTC. Also, the deadline to send out layoff notices for next year is long past, so even if we WERE planning to lay off P.E. teachers (we aren’t!), we would not legally be able to.