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Listening Tour: What I've Heard

My First 100 Days as Superintendent

What I've Heard: A Summary of Listening Tour Feedback

As I progress though my summer Listening Tour, I will archive brief summaries from each meeting, in order to share the feedback I am receiving with our whole learning community. Additional summaries will be posted as they are shared with each focus group. View the Listening Tour schedule »

June 21 - Student Session (M-Cubed)

Students & Parents in Attendance: 58

We have to be more forceful in making it clear that we have high expectations for all students. We still have progress to make in hiring more teachers of color and in improving the professional development of our staff around the principles of culturally responsive teaching.

Although we often have pledged that expanding access and opportunity to learning resources for all students is a priority, I heard from M-Cubed students and parents that student participation in our gifted and honors programs and in our academies does not represent the diversity of our student body. It especially was meaningful to hear this from students of color who are excelling in one of our most rigorous academic programs.

Among the strengths identified were the collaborative atmosphere in our schools and the wide variety of choices that students have in how they learn.​​​​​

July 10 - Student Session (Fine Arts Academy)

Students & Parents in Attendance: 22

Bright spots include both the quality and the breadth of our program offerings in the arts, as well as positive school climate.

We should continue to focus on increasing student engagement with their education, a goal we can achieve by highlighting student interests in our programming design and better aligning scheduling to make it easier for students to access these opportunities.

We also should expand real-life learning experiences for students; provide teachers with more planning and collaboration time; celebrate the achievements of all students; and provide more detail on the goals of our division and such new programs as High School 2022.

July 11 - Teacher Session

Teachers in Attendance: 27

Our learning environments are both collaborative and innovative, offering teachers excellent quality resources that include technology and our coaching model.

There needs to be more choice for students and access to programs, and more emphasis on social/emotional learning. We should provide more support services to ESOL students, especially in our middle schools.

We also need to improve outreach to teachers around major curriculum or facility changes that are being considered, and teachers should have more opportunity to partner with other teachers, not just within a feeder pattern, but across the county.

July 17 & 18 - Teacher Sessions

Teachers in Attendance: 29 (combined)

We’re doing a pretty good job when it comes to setting and pursuing our vision that all learners believe in their power to embrace learning, to excel, and to own their future. We received high marks for incorporating technology in the classroom and for the quality of professional development available to teachers. Teachers noted that they are impressed with the knowledge and dedication of their peers.

In alignment with what I heard from teachers on July 11, we need to increase our communications around major curriculum or facility changes under consideration and provide teachers with the opportunity to have input. Further, we need more consistency in how we implement changes to curriculum and programs.

We need to concentrate on how we can reach all students, including those who are “in the middle,” by expanding the diversity of our staff and the connections we make as educators with all the students we serve.

July 19 - Student Session (CoderDojo)

Students & Parents in Attendance: 43

Participants expressed support for continuing to expand student choice, our culture, and the quality of our faculty.

It is important to provide more movement for students during the school day, not just during recess or physical education, but in instruction as well. Regarding academic rigor, we should consider expanding student mentors and providing guides to incoming students. We also need to focus on promoting the responsible use of technology in the classroom.

July 25 - Community Session

Community Members in Attendance: 36

We’re doing well when it comes to the range of resources and programs we provide to students, including quality teachers, access to field trips, our fine arts and athletics programs, and our investment in technology.

Related to feedback I've received so far from teachers, it is important to increase our communications around major curriculum or facility changes and provide our community with more opportunity to have input.

We also should prioritize school safety, increased services to support the mental and emotional health of our students, and greater diversity around our programming and staff.

July 31 - Community Session

Community Members in Attendance: 32

While we have made some progress in our communications with one another, we need to continue to improve opportunities for teachers and parents to learn about and comment on initiatives early in their formative stage. Attendees talked about the importance of responding more effectively to parent requests to better support students.

We need to focus on ways to expand access to quality after-school programs, potentially through building more partnerships with community organizations that can supplement our After-School Enrichment Program.

Other priorities identified include improving our support for the transition of students from middle to high school, closing achievement gaps among students, reviewing our math curriculum, and increasing our staff and faculty diversity.

August 7 - Teacher Sessions

Teachers in Attendance: 18

Teachers stressed the importance of personal connections that have been helpful to their work and the overall performance of our division.

Teachers also are concerned about the stress that often results from students constantly striving to be competitive. Recommendations included removing weighted classes and restricting the number of Advanced Placement (AP) classes in which a student can enroll.

We need to work on improving the environment for staff by being more attentive to workload and range of responsibilities. Additionally, we need to work more closely with families to improve parental involvement.

August 8 - Community Session

Community Members in Attendance: 24

On the positive side, our administrators and student counselors received kudos for being so helpful, and our programs received praise for being innovative and expanding opportunities for our students to be creative.

We need to keep our policies updated, especially around the use of cell phones, our dress code, bullying, and funding impacted by free and reduced lunch students.

The importance of how we manage change was a topic of conversation, a common theme across multiple listening sessions. Helpful suggestions included sharing more data about why a change is needed and how it will be an improvement and providing more opportunity for stakeholders to have input before a change takes place.

I also appreciated hearing thoughts about increasing support from our central office to our schools and for doing all we can to strengthen the connections between our parents, schools and communities as a way to expand learning opportunities for students.

August 16 - Equity & Diversity Session

Employees & Community Members in Attendance: 38

In this session hosted by the ACPS Equity & Diversity Advsiory Committee, it was especially meaningful to talk about the importance of closing the opportunity gaps that challenge so many school divisions across our nation. We agreed that public schools always should be safe and welcoming places that deeply value the learning potential and abilities of all children, and that discussions around this need and potential solutions should continue and be informed by many voices.

We are making progress, most notably through the success of our culturally responsive teaching program, which needs to gain in its influence. I appreciated hearing thoughts about increasing accountability for engaging all families with their child’s education and with our schools.

Other discussions around improvement included staffing schools based upon need; considering how best to support students; and examining barriers that prevent equitable access to learning for all students.

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