News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, May 10, 2012
DIS CSD board discusses multi-grade classrooms
Student council unveils "privilege ladder"

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by Jessica Brophy

The idea of combining grades or ages is not a new one in the CSD—multi-grade classrooms have been used before in the history of the school system, were discussed during the last round of strategic planning more than five years ago and came up again during a recent budget forum. At its May 1 meeting, the school board discussed moving in that direction.

Board member Stephen York said he wanted to carefully consider the potential shift to multi-grade classrooms.

“There was an acknowledgment of declining enrollment during the budget process, and the possible necessity of considering the multi-age direction,” said York. “I’d like to do that in an organized, systematic way.”

Board chairman Mark Cormier said the shift to multiage or multi-grade classrooms would require training for and “buy-in” by teachers. Third-grade teacher Judy Rhodes said it would be important to have parents and the public on board with a philosophy shift toward multi-grade as well.

Board member Linda Nelson suggested developing a task force or subcommittee to consider the pros and cons of such a shift before the board commits to transitioning to multi-grade classrooms.

Parent and PTA member Traci Martin asked why the school would consider moving to multi-age classrooms. Board member Skip Greenlaw said the decision might be driven by declining enrollment, but could offer real educational opportunities by having more students available to group into effective classes.

The board will vote in June whether to form a task force to investigate the issue.

Student representative Sarah Wilson unveiled the student council’s “privilege ladder,” which has been in the works for a few years. The privilege ladder borrows the idea of the already in-place discipline ladder, which students move up for bad behavior and receive punishments accordingly. However, the privilege ladder rewards good behaviors.

Students would earn privileges according to their grade and whether they are “level one” or “level two,” explained Wilson.

Level one students must have a C average with no failing grades, cannot be above level three on the behavior ladder, cannot have more than three unexcused absences in any class, must be on track with graduation requirements, including School Wide Expectations and senior exhibition projects.

Level two students must be on the honor roll, cannot be on the behavior ladder, must meet benchmarks on most recent NWEAs or make above-average progress. Students from either level can have privileges revoked if they abuse them.

Some of the “privileges” built into the system include a quarterly breakfast celebrating those on the privilege ladder, a weekly cocoa, coffee and tea bar on Fridays, a quarterly movie day, the ability to leave early or come in late for juniors and seniors if they have study halls then (this is currently a privilege for all seniors) and open campus during study hall and lunch with the ability to walk across the street to The Galley for level two juniors and all seniors on the privilege ladder.

Greenlaw voiced concern about the safety of students crossing Route 15.

“My concern is not about students looking both ways, but with drivers who don’t slow down,” he said.

Cormier said he thought the bar might be set too low for level one. High School Principal Todd West said he thought it was good to have something to encourage students who get Ds or Fs to improve their grades.

The privilege ladder is still under consideration and would not go into effect until next school year.

In other business, West reported on difficulties with the master schedule, which is almost complete. Many of those difficulties are due to the small size of the high school—118 students expected for next year. This means many classes like U.S. History have only one section, which limits what else can be scheduled at that time (so a student who needs to take Geometry and U.S. History needs the classes to be scheduled at different times). West says there are a few elective classes that may not have enough students enrolled to offer the class, as per the new class size policy.

The board’s next monthly meeting will be held Tuesday, June 5, at 5 p.m. at the elementary school.