UAI Staff News
Academic Standards. When we are holding standards, are we looking at an external expectation (e.g. state standards), and are those standards truly reflecting and including the stories (not just the ancient histories of feudal Japan or the Mayan empire) and accomplishments of black and brown people beyond how they fall into the dominant narrative of a white, European experience. Who is setting the standards for our black and brown students, and which of these standards will empower our students and which will act to continue the systems of racism? If our course offerings de-centered whiteness and heterosexuality in exchange for delving deep into black and brown cultures and LGBTQ histories & achievements, we would not only be holding students to high academic standards BUT ALSO engaging them in content that is more reflective of who they are. So, if in order to create the space in our curriculum to achieve this, we have to release the yoke of NYS Middle School and High School exams, is that lowering standards? In my mind, no. In others, maybe? In others, yes. This is work we need to do.
Standards for Academic Behaviors. When we are holding standards for how we think students should act and behave....where are these expectations coming from? We don't have a collectively established idea of what kids should or shouldn't be able to do at various ages. I frequently hear the refrain, "When they get to the real world...they won't be able to...", but I also hear this refrain at ALL 7 of our grade levels. So, if we're all thinking about what will happen to our students when they get to the real world, who is thinking about what should be happening within our four walls to get them prepared? When do we teach them the skills we expect them to show us? How do we, as a community, create the time to teach them how to self-advocate, self-manage, and set goals so that they are able to submit work on time, ask for feedback, and pursue high quality vs. completion. We all expect students to show us these skills, but I am not sure where we teach them in each of our classrooms. So, together as a community, we need to figure out how & when we are teaching the SEL and Executive Functioning skills required for academic success. Without it, we our biases of what should be will govern our students, leading to questions of who is doing what in terms of holding students to high standards. This is also work we need to do.
Focus on Competency and Excellence. Recently, I joined the Equity Team when Joy from the Mastery Collaborative joined them to talk more about grading. All of us are entrenched in our assumptions about grades, because all of us have experienced a form of traditional grading for a significant part of our lives. However, there's nothing like a global pandemic to shake us out of our routines. What shook me most about this experience was Joy's simple posing of a question. Why do we spend time or energy detailing failure (e.g. the Level 1 or 2 or the Ineffective of Developing) in rubrics. If we are laser focused on competencies & excellence (Level 3/4 or Effective/Highly Effective), then the failures become tools for learning in pursuit of the desired outcomes (competencies & excellence). For me, this simple question shook my thinking around teacher evaluation. I don't want to focus on failure for failure sake. I want to use failure as a learning tool to help teachers better understand what to shift and change to improve practice. I want all teachers to do the same for our students, and this means, we have to figure out what teachers need to be able to do this effectively. This, too, is work we need to do.
These are the three chunks of focus as we step into our next step toward our return to school. The first was taken by our brave middle school staff and students; the next will be to welcome our high school staff and students. Soon enough, we will all be back, and along the way, we will be doing a lot of work and thinking so that when we reopen next fall, we are ready to offer something more and better than what we left in March of 2020. We are ready to offer a school that our staff, students and families will need and love.
Birthdays This Week
If you have a Bday this week, I don't have it on my calendar!
Staff Circles Committee (Members: Annie, Jennifer, Juelle, Marsha, & Nakita)On Friday, we departed from our originally planned Circle to hold space for our staff amid the Anti-Asian violence against the AAPI community. Our decision for this Circle was based on doing what was best and necessary for our school; we hope we accomplished that. The conversation about Anti-Asian violence does not begin or end in the Circles; the work must continue in all the spaces we are in. We will pick up our book club reading in our next Circle (April 16) focusing on excerpts from chapter two.
School Restructuring Committee (Members: Annie, Courtney, Jen, Kiri, Laura, Marsha, Nadine, Nina, and SarahM). The SRC agendas & minutes are always open for staff access. Last week we reviewed the Mental Health & Social Emotional information gathered in Focus groups, and this week the SRC will set next steps for supporting staff development in SPED/ENL support and in the areas of Mental Health and SEL.
The Equity Team (Suzannah, Nina, Elana, Kelly, Phillan, Annie, Nakita, Rebecca C, Damon, Ms. King (Kianna’s mom), Ms. Barnes (Alyssa’s mom), Ms. Martuscello (Veronica’s mom), Kianna King, Emily Payamps, Jerlai Tyner, Jamilah Alshawish, Salia Naschel). Equity Team meeting notes and agenda draft. This week the Equity Team met to brainstorm and draft a statement condemning the most recent Atlanta terrorist acts and the racism against Asian Americans as of recent and throughout our country's history. We are committed to further discussing how to build a more inclusive school for our entire school community.Also, we reviewed feedback from last week's staff PD. We will continue our discussion of addressing the participation grade, revising the grading policy, and the 50% grade floor.
High School Reopening. All HS staff should have received individualized notices about their programs. This was a rapid announcement and turn around and we were in the middle of refining MS reopening. That said, please expect that there will probably be some mistakes to fix and changes to adapt as we work through the first week of implementation. I appreciate everyone's flexibility and understanding. I am working day and night to make sure things are as streamlined and clear as possible. Please, if anything is unclear, do not hesitate to reach out and ask. Here are some key safety points to keep top of mind as you enter the building once more.
- Avoid Close Contact & Use PPE and Safety Protocols. "Close Contact" is a currently shifting definition by the CDC & the DOE. Currently the DOE defines a close contact as someone who was within 6 feet for 10 or more minutes with someone who is COVID positive. Contacts of contacts are not considered close contacts. So, by maintaining 6' distance and with all staff and students using masks, hand sanitizer, and wiping down used surfaces with disinfectant wipes, we will hopefully be able to mitigate school or classroom closure as much as possible.
- Ventilation and Air Purification. All classrooms have an Air Purifier (Intellipure) & our building has MERV13 filters centrally installed to keep the air clean. The temperatures are rising to comfortable levels, so teachers are welcome to open windows and doors to maximize circulation.
- Screening & Mandatory Testing. All students and staff must submit to a daily mandatory screening and agree to weekly COVID testing.
Per Session Postings
Summer School Per Session Post.
We are currently preparing for summer school and looking for the following positions.
We are planning to run summer school July 12th through 29th, Mondays thru Thursdays.
Hours are still TBD and precise program offerings are still being determined and will be
driven by student needs. We are looking for up to 10 positions.
Planning & prep time in addition to teaching time will be paid for teaching staff.
Please complete the per session interest form and email Kiri by March 23, 2021.
2 Administrators (Must have Admin certification)
1 Teacher Coordinator of Summer School
4-7 Teachers (subject to student enrollment)