Created by the RISD Board of Trustees in 1981, the Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) is made up of a parent representative from each school, the PAC Chairman, the President of the RISD Council of PTAs, the Superintendent, the Superintendent’s Council, and the Board of Trustees. The purpose of PAC is to provide direct access for parents to administrators and school board trustees in order to convey current and accurate information with regard to districtwide concerns.
Richardson ISD Parent Advisory Committee (PAC)
Q&A from the RISD Parent Advisory Committee – October 29, 2013
The new TEKS Standards for Financial Literacy Curriculum has begun for this school year across the state of Texas. What specific subject for junior high and high school students is the curriculum being taught? What is the curriculum and who published it?
In 2012 the TEKS were revised to include financial literacy. The district has been teaching financial literacy for many years utilizing such tools as Enterprise City, but we will take additional steps with the new requirements. In 2014-15 the new financial literacy TEKS will roll into the 7th & 8th grade math classes. In 2015-2016, financial literacy TEKS will be included in high school math courses. Meanwhile, there are financial literacy TEKS in the current Economics course which is taken at the high school level.
Junior High Athletics Participation
Why are boys who participate in Athletics at the junior high level required to be a part of the football team? Football has proven to be a physically damaging sport, particularly to boys whose brains are not fully developed. Why can't a junior high boy be a part of Athletics, participating on, say, the cross country team in the fall, then the track team in the spring - without having to participate in fall football? Please reconsider this policy, and support options other than fall football.
Boys are not required to participate in 7th grade football in order to be in athletics; however, we do not offer any other sport for boys during football season because we are not staffed to supervise/coach another sport or activity at that grade level. During the fall semester when football ends, students may transfer into athletics if they did not play football. Students that transfer into athletics after football may begin off-season training or try out for basketball. If they do not make basketball they will be placed back into off-season training in order to prepare for track or soccer in the spring. Students may also decide to be managers. No one is forced to play sports; however, we encourage every student to be involved in some activity. One of things that RISD is proud of is the many offerings we have for students whether clubs, fine arts, or athletics.
Does the district have a stance or make a recommendation to schools about washing hands with soap and water vs. using hand sanitizer?
We always recommend that washing with soap and water is the first and best choice. Hand sanitizers should be used when circumstances dictate hand washing is not practical or possible.
College Entrance Exam Participation
I have read that one of the district's new areas of focus is on getting more high school students to take the SAT or ACT tests. It seems that the students who have worked hard in school and who have done well will already be planning to take one of these tests. I would expect that any increase in students taking the tests will be from lower-performing students who might not have otherwise considered taking one of these tests.
Consequently the school and district average scores will be much lower. Lower average scores for each high school and for the district overall present a much less attractive profile. This affects the reputation of the district for potential students and could negatively affect ongoing enrollment of the higher quality students whose families might decide not to move into the district or to send their children to a private school. What is the reason for this new focus?
The focus of the district to encourage all students to take college entrance exams is not new; our mission is still to serve and prepare all students for their global futures. We do feel that all students should be exposed to one of the nationally standardized tests, either ACT or SAT.
When standardized tests are used appropriately, a great deal can be learned about how well schools function. That information allows us, as educators, to make better-informed conclusions about how much students are learning, which in turn allows us to make better-informed decisions about improving curriculum and programs for all students. Students benefit directly when they take tests that offer information on how well they have mastered the material intended for learning.
During the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Committee student statements were unified in that providing these tests is a great opportunity that provides students a glimpse at what they need to improve, as well as how the test was structured.
We know statistically that higher student participation levels on ACT or SAT tend to result in lower average scores, but RISD feels the benefit for more students to be exposed to the assessments is worthwhile.
Handing Back Tests
Why do schools not hand tests back to the student? The tests would be beneficial to parents and tutors to help the students understand their mistakes and study for future tests.
This practice is annually reviewed. Many tests are not given back because questions are frequently reused. Even though teachers do not return tests, students are allowed to view the tests in class and make corrections. Parents may come to school to view tests.
Tests, including benchmark assessments, are difficult to write and it takes a lot of time and resources to produce an appropriate assessment.
Feeder School Mascots
Why has the District chosen different mascots for each school in feeder areas, instead of having all feeder schools share the colors and mascots of the high school team?
As schools were built over a period of many years, students and parents comprising the new schools selected the mascots. It has not been an RISD practice to require elementary and junior high schools to have the same mascot as the high school.
What are the short and long term plans for the Planetarium facility?
The planetarium space was closed due to budget reductions in 2011. In addition to the ongoing operating expense, the Planetarium equipment needed replacement at substantial capital expense.
The space was repurposed to house district gifted & talented (REACH) programs previously housed in five classrooms within Skyview elementary. This construction created additional general classroom space to accommodate enrollment growth in the Skyview attendance area. The repurposed space also includes office space for the central REACH staff. This use was approved in 2012 and work was completed in August, 2013.
Has the District considered moving to a block schedule of classes in the high schools where students have longer class periods and classes meet on different days? So, instead of having English, math, SS, and Spanish every day for 50 min, the kids would have math and Eng on Mondays and Wed for 100 min each and SS and Spanish on Tues and Thurs for 100 min each (to give an example). Some private high schools have block schedules and most colleges/universities. There are a lot of benefits to this kind of scheduling. Less time is lost in transitions and longer class periods allow teachers to go more into depth.
The RISD Graduation Task Force reviewed multiple topics related to scheduling and as a result, increased the number of courses a student must take during their junior and senior year. At first glance it appears that students would have more time to learn when a student has longer class periods. Classes would have more time to include interactive approaches to learning such as labs.
However, current research does not indicate that block scheduling increases the learning of students. It can be difficult for teachers to maintain the attention of their class for a two-hour session because some students have difficulty remaining focused and productive over the extended period. More time doesn't necessarily mean more learning.
Many students benefit from the repetition of day-to-day learning, especially when it comes to subjects like geography, foreign language and chemistry. RISD curriculum directors also feel that students benefit from having math every day of the week. Research suggests that students are more successful when math is taught in “small bites” so the student can process the information. When students have entire days between their classes, they are more likely to forget the information they learned in the previous session. Elective teachers also indicate that it is preferable for activities such as band to be taught every day of the week.
From an attendance standpoint, if a student misses a day under the modular schedule, that student is actually missing two, or sometimes even more days. RISD did pilot block scheduling at Richardson Junior High School and it was determined that the model was not as effective. The graduation task force is meeting this semester as RISD reviews course options for students as the state moves to new course and graduation requirements of HB 5.
In light of recent vandalism and concerns about safety surrounding the Lake Highlands/Berkner football game, is it mandatory that the schools continue to play each other? Could the series be discontinued and both schools replace that game with another?
The rivalry football games between LHHS and BHS (and PHS and RHS) must be played as long as the two schools are in the same UIL classification and district. All participating members of the UIL are required to play the teams in their UIL district.
We would hate for the actions of a few to ruin the events and traditions for many. Rivalries are special and the vast majority of students and community members handle situations appropriately. RISD will continue to work with schools and police to be even more proactive next year, and student behavioral expectations will be strongly reinforced. RISD schools, Athletics, Student Services and Safety & Security will be monitoring rivalry situations closely so games and surrounding activities can be enjoyed appropriately.
Who decides that the Homecoming dance begins at 9:00p.m. and why?
Details related to Homecoming dances and activities are campus-level decisions. Events before dances often run later, so 9:00pm has typically worked better for schools to allow students to participate. LHHS is reviewing the possibility of moving future dances to 8:00pm.
Kids go to school for 7 + hours, then extra-curricular activities, then have "x" hours of homework per night, especially if students have pre-AP/AP courses. That's a 10-12 hour day - most often times longer. So you have stressed out, over-tired kids going day after day. That is a longer day and heavier load than college students and many professionals have. So where is the wisdom in this approach to school?
The frequency and amount of homework should gradually increase throughout a student’s school years. Homework that is assigned should be coordinated among teachers to ensure that the amount of homework given is appropriate for the student. Consideration should also be given to the amount of extra–curricular involvement of students. The following time allocations are suggested recommendations for the average student and should assist schools in developing campus homework plans (daily reading skills development is not considered part of this time):
• From Kindergarten to third grade, no more than 30 minutes total per day. (Special consideration should be given to the age of the Kindergarten student.)
• From fourth to sixth grade, no more than 40 to 60 minutes total per day.
• From seventh to twelfth grade, the recommended amount of time varies according to the type and number of subjects a student is taking. A general guideline is an average of 90 minutes total per day. Students enrolled in advanced courses will require larger amounts of homework time.
RISD wants students to be involved and engaged in activities. Each student is different in terms of the type and level of extra-curricular activities they can participate in while still effectively prioritizing their academics. It is a balance that is different for each student.
The last two school years have extended into the month of June. There are many student days off during the school year, and the winter breaks have been lengthy. Is it possible to reduce the amount of days off during the school year and return to a school year that ends in May?
Each year the District attempts to build the best Academic calendar possible. RISD used to begin the school year earlier in August, but the Texas Legislature changed the law several years ago mandating that public schools may not begin prior to the fourth Monday in August.
Students must attend school for 176 days and teachers must work 187 days. This equates to 6 six-week grading periods, which is 36 weeks of school. We must get these 36 weeks of school completed within 40 weeks. The District highly values professional development days for teachers during the school year which allow us to review student performance data and adjust curriculum and instruction to meet the needs of students.
While we could cut back on professional development days and holidays during the school year, we do not believe this would support the academic needs of students. If we want to end in May, we must be able to start school before the 4th Monday in August.
School Enrollment Sizes
What, if anything, does the district plan to do about the imbalance of student enrollment in area elementary schools? Some Lake Highlands-area schools have enrollments in the 400s while others are in the 700s. How are larger schools provided for?
The only elementary schools with the same footprint (design) are the three built since 2000. All others are of various styles, sizes and capacities and were built over the last 60+ years based on student populations within their respective attendance zones. There are no plans to redraw attendance boundaries in order to attempt to balance student populations at elementary campuses. All buildings are not the same size so would not be able to accommodate the same number of students without additional construction. Student populations change each year, so if boundaries were changed to try to achieve an artificial balance, then the district would have to make boundary changes annually to maintain the artificial balance. The district provides funding and resources to schools based upon enrollment formulas, so additional funding and staff are provided for elementary schools with larger populations.
How are principals evaluated every year? Principals are the ones to bring three key pieces together: students, teachers and parents. Does the district get input from these three pieces every year about how the principal is doing?
Principals are evaluated annually using the internal system developed by RISD. Each of the three elementary executive directors has a cluster. They are the direct supervisors of the principals. The principal evaluation tool revolves around 8 domains. At the beginning of each year there is a formative conference to set goals and address priorities. Principals meet as group and individually with the executive directors throughout the year so that there is consistent communication. Summative conferences for principals are held in March. Each year RISD has a staff, student, and parent survey that is also folded in to the evaluation to give feedback about the entire picture. Parents, staff and students are encouraged to utilize the surveys to provide feedback regarding many aspects of their school, including their principal.
Students often come to school dressed inappropriately. Why does RISD not have a standard dress code and hold students and parents accountable for following it? Why not consider school uniforms?
We do understand the need for appropriate dress. RISD does have a standard dress code which provides guidelines for schools. Campuses determine their dress codes based on input from their local school councils. Arapaho Classical Magnet and Christa McAuliffe have uniforms because the Board set up the campuses in that manner. In addition, a number of campuses have a recommended standard dress, but the Board would have to take official action to actually set a uniform dress code. Such a dress code would require additional cost on the part of the district to provide uniforms.
Students who consistently violate their school’s dress code face disciplinary consequences.
Program of Studies
The RISD Program of Studies has not been updated to include all courses made available due to changes in policy by TEA. Also, are there mistakes in the Program of Studies? Why are new courses not offered and how does the District make sure that the Program of Studies is accurate?
The RISD Program of Studies is posted online. The document contains a list of courses that are offered in addition to other useful information. The RISD Program of Studies is updated annually and typically ready in January to reflect changes for the following year. As with any school or district document, if errors are noticed, we encourage stakeholders to alert school or district staff so corrections can be made.
How does the District manage truancy when students skip school or classes and leave campus instead?
We take truancy very seriously. Students cannot receive an education if they are not present, but more importantly, students’ safety is an issue if they are not in school and unsupervised. If a student is absent or skips a class period, the parent is notified with a telephone call. We encourage parents to call the school when they are alerted to a student absence. If there is a pattern of truancy, administrators are responsible for calling parents and discipline and/or truancy court action may be the consequence. The Student Services Department works closely with truancy courts, parents and campuses.