Friday, January 16, 2009

Q&A with Dr. Gallon on Sixth Grade

Schools Superintendent Steve Gallon III has announced that all elementary schools will extend to sixth grade in the 2009-10 school year.

The news follows this year's innovation at Cook and Cedarbrook schools of a sixth grade option to enrollment at district middle schools. The plan is the first step toward a K-8 elementary school configuration that Dr. Gallon says is more cognizant of a young adolescent's needs than the current K-5, 6-8 model with two district middle schools.

Many Plainfield parents have taken their children out of the system rather than send them to district middle schools. The district has experienced a loss of student population to charter schools and other learning settings in recent years. Dr. Gallon has stated a goal of reclaiming these students. Below are Plaintalker's questions and Dr. Gallon's answers on the new proposal. A "critical data point," he says, is the 95 percent retention rate.

Q. How many fifth graders are currently enrolled in the district?
A. 530 fifth grade students are currently enrolled in the district.

Q. How many sixth graders are at Cook and Cedarbrook?
A. 99 grade 6 students at both schools. 39 at Cook and 60 at Cedarbrook.

Q. What number of new sixth graders can the elementary schools accommodate?
A. An assessment and analysis was made prior to the decision. The district can accommodate all 530 5th grade students for sixth grade next year.

Q. What is the projected staff realignment in order to have sixth grades at both middle and elementary schools?
A. The staff alignment will be based on the number of students enrolled at each level (middle and elementary). As we are in the very initial stages, a request from parents to indicate their druthers for the 2009-2010 school will be made to provide data for projected enrollment and staff realignments, where needed.
I have initiated School Budget/Personnel Conferences in the district for all schools. This is a process to ensure efficient, equitable, and effective allocation of district resources, and will involve meetings with building principals and district staff to review enrollment (current and projected) data and align with the fiscal reality of the school. This will result in appropriate reconciliations being made at each school.
I am presently and personally meeting with each school’s entire faculty to discuss and review the School Budget/Personnel Reconciliation process. The first meeting was held at Plainfield High School this past Monday. These efforts, along with the development and adoption of a School Allocation Plan, which Mr. Ottman presented to BOE at Tuesday’s meeting, will strengthen our efficiency and fiscal accountability efforts. These are all reflected in the 2008-2012 District Strategic Plan.

Q. It is just half a year since the innovation at Cook and Cedarbrook. What early results are you seeing? What number of seventh graders do you anticipate at the two schools?
A. The preliminary result/impact has been in the area of student retention and recruitment. Through these models, we were not only able to retain many of students, but actually have parents to return to PPS to enroll their children. An interesting and compelling set of indisputable data speaks to retention. Of the 41 grade 5 students at Cook, 39 remained for grade 6. This is a 95% retention rate. Of the 63 grade 5 students at Cedarbrook last year, 60 remained for grade 6 this year. This is also a 95% retention rate. Additionally, students’ grade, attendance, and performance levels have been able to sustain at higher levels, many of which would often decline upon entering middle school.
The students’ self-esteem and self-efficacy have also improved due to the fact they are leaders in their schools and are able to have a small learning community with familiar adults fostering them during a critical time of personal growth and development.

Click here for Dr. Gallon's Jan. 14 letter on the subject. And make sure to take a look around the district web site for lots of other information.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This guy has been here for only a few months and seems to be delivering for the students in Plainfield. Bringing in a young bright, energetic leader with new ideas and an eye on accountability seems to be paying off for the BOE. Gallon is proving to be poised and focused. A 95% retention rate in a district that has seen declining enrollment? This guy is no fool. Kudos to the new super and the BOE and the parents that will not be forced to snd their children to the middle schools next year.

7:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only reason we are restructuring for K-6 is retention? Most districts are moving away from K-6 and starting middle school at 6th grade. While I understand the fears of having a child go to middle school, we are once again moving backwards. I know I am in the minority by making this statement, but the statistics show that if a child receives a good elementary education, they are ready for middle school at 6th grade. Let's not forget they need those 3 years to prepare them for the rigors of H.S. What happens when one year is taken away?

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Anonymous at 2:50, actually Scotch Plains within the past 10 years restructured to K-4 and 5-8 for middle school.

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is not Scotch Plains and I don't know about what the research says. I do know that as a parent I am pleased and excited that my child will remain in an elementary setting for an additional year. With 95 % staying for another year, most parents feel the same way.

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is NOT a step backwards. The middle schools have been developing a bad reputation over the past several years. The main preparation these kids need for HS is academic preparation. If the emperical results from the pilot elemtary schools shows favorable results with both retention as well as performance, why not extend this throughout the district.

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL.. we were K -6 not to long ago folks and guess what we were failing then and we are still failing WHY? PARENTS. That is the only difference. EDUCATED PARENTS, PARENTS THAT RESPECT EDUCATION, PARENTS THAT GET INVOLVED. The teachers in plainfield are outstanding they can only do so much.

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Renata said...

The stats bear out that certain environment and Plainfield being one such type environment benefits tremendously by the K-8 model. It is not a move backwords it is a move to meet the needs of "this" community and all its idosyncracies...

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The super appears to have been very thoughtful in this decision. First he introduced K-8 to two schools. After looking at the results, what 95% retention, he decided to convert the elementary schools to 6th grade. The middle schools have been an issue for a while and have been the focus for new charter schools. This will address the retention of students and parent requests and concerns about the middle schools. I also heard that the new arts and advanced school will start with 7th and 8th grade next year. Dr. Gallon is nobody's fool.

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What nonsense.

Larger classes, more discipline problems, taking rooms away from teachers who support math, literacy, social studies and otherwise connect & support the academics.

Many students learn volumes by this support. Cramming students and staff and taking rooms away from specials isn't the answer.

The elementary schools were once failing and due to dedication, many hours and often painful work, they have turned around. Gallon afraid to tackle the problems in the Junior Highs? He's creating more problems instead of fixing what needs to be fixed.

What happens to all those empty rooms in the Junior High? What happens to the teachers who will now have many free periods since all these students will be missing? Will they be moved to the elementary schools? I say SOLVE THE PROBLEMS OF THE JUNIOR HIGHS AND NOT CREATE MORE.

The Alpha Academy only has 50 students and many of them cut classes. That's a huge building. It previously housed an entire elementary school. Should 5&6 be there? Give it some thought before you make more problems.

Statistics prove that the academics NEED the arts to keep scores up. Think the same lessons will be taught when you tie the hands of those teachers? Think again and stop playing with the heart strings of the parents-show them what it will REALLY be like when the students are crammed into rooms and the quality isn't there.

11:32 AM  

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