Let’s Talk September 2015

Q: Can we please make it a mandatory requirement and establish required but reasonable time frames for teachers to report grades in Aeries? In its current state, some teachers are taking too long a time to report grades, or not using it at all. I don’t want to check multiple personal teacher websites for my kid’s grades. If the system itself is not a good tool, then let’s stop wasting district funds and find a better replacement.

A: We strongly support strong feedback between teachers, students and parent.  All teachers use the aeries portal to input grades. Approximately 80% also use the gradebook feature that allows parents to view the class assignments. Of the teachers that use the gradebook, approximately 70% update the gradebook often. Although the gradebook itself is an excellent tool, teachers are not required to use it for assignments. However, they are required to respond to parent inquiries regarding the grade and to notify parents if their student is in danger of failing. If a parent has concerns that her or his child is not receiving timely feedback she or he can schedule a meeting with the teacher.

Q: Why are teachers asking for contact information from parents [on forms sent home with students] instead of looking in Aeries?

A: Teachers request this information so that they can ensure they have the most current information. At times, parents have not yet officially changed the information with the school at the beginning of the year. As we move forward with online registration, we are hopeful this practice will not be necessary. In the meantime, parents can indicate that Aeries is up to date if they don’t want to fill out the form.

Q: Because of our warm weather, why can’t the 1/2 or 1 mile run take place during the day of the week that the students have PE 1st period? Does it really always have to be on Tuesdays?

A: Please contact your principal if they are not following Board Policy and Administrative Regulations 3514.11 http://gamutonline.net/district/burbank/displayPolicy/477327/3

Q: What are the restrictions for hot weather and poor air quality? Who do we contact if we see students out in severe weather [during PE and/or extracurricular activities}?

A: Contact the principal directly. District policy states: “When temperatures are 80 to 94 degrees Fahrenheit…provide adequate time (at least 10 minutes per hour) for water breaks, rest and cooling for every half hour of physical activity.”  http://gamutonline.net/district/burbank/displayPolicy/477327/3

Q: Do “skills” really need to be graded? Not all students are going to do well with specific sports, so why bother grading it?

A: Physical Education has state adopted standards that the teachers are required to teach. These standards identify the skills that need to be taught. Skills improve with practice. What the teachers are looking for is progress toward goals. http://gamutonline.net/district/burbank/displayPolicy/477678/. As long as the students are making progress and trying their best, the students pass PE. They also are preparing themselves for the Fitness Test they will take in 9th grade. If students do not pass the Fitness Test in the 9th or 10th grade, they must take PE in 11th and 12th grade.

Q: What does administration do when they are made aware that teachers are bullying the students? Being sarcastic?

A: All concerns are taken seriously and any action taken is according to our policies and procedures as defined by Education Code and our collective bargaining agreement. The response in this type of situation can range from a parent teacher conference to an investigation. Please note, the details of all personnel matters remain confidential.

Q: Would Mr. Hill consider including stakeholder (parent) and student surveys of teachers in overall evaluations? Were they effective at LAUSD?

A: In April 2009, the LAUSD Board of Education created a Teacher Effectiveness Task Force to develop recommendations for the creation of a new teacher evaluation system. The Task Force issued a report in April 2010; this year, LAUSD is in the first phase of implementation of a multiple measure performance evaluation system, Educator Growth and Development Cycle, based on the report‘s recommendations. About 100 schools are participating in the first phase.22 Implementation of the new system district-wide is dependent on the results of a pending lawsuit and negotiations with the teachers‘ union. 23 Under the system being tested in the first phase of implementation, teacher performance reviews consist of four elements: observation of practice, contributions to student learning outcomes, contributions to the school community, and stakeholder (student, staff, and parent) feedback. Student feedback surveys were developed by a team of researchers based at the University of California—Los Angeles, piloted in the 2010-2011 school year, and revised based on feedback from teachers, administrators, and students. They will be administered to students in grades 4—12 in participating schools in June 2012. A small number of schools will also be testing a parent survey in the 2011-2012 school year. All survey responses will be confidential and no-stakes.

I believe a good evaluation process is an ongoing process. As long as students, parents, and teachers are communicating openly and freely, I don’t feel we need to implement surveys into our evaluation system. However, I welcome continued feedback from teachers, parents, and administrators about our evaluation system. If a need arises to revise our evaluation system, I will work with the Burbank Teachers Association to look at research and best practices.

Q: Can we just complete one [district volunteer clearance] form (fillable online) where we check which schools to send our volunteer paperwork to? Can we just do it once please [for all school sites rather than a single form at EACH site]?

A: We can look into what it will cost to implement an online volunteer process for filling out the paperwork on a fillable online form and submitting accompanying documents such as a copy of the proposed volunteers driver’s license and TB clearance.

Q: We recently found out that Burbank is now requiring all after school chairs [i.e. parent volunteers] to have the full Live Scan fingerprinting done in order to keep our kids safe during after school programs they are supervising. While I can appreciate the extra step beyond the background check that is currently done, the cost is very steep for some of our families (especially at Title I schools). Is it possible that a BUSD volunteer price point could be developed like the $10 Parks & Rec Volunteer Coaches receive? $70 is a lot to ask volunteer that are already giving so much time.

A: BUSD requires Live Scan to be done for volunteers who are on overnight trips with students and volunteers who are alone with students in an afterschool teaching setting. We will look at the fee structure during our budget development process to estimate how much it would cost the district each year if we reduced the volunteer fees for fingerprinting. At this time we will be keeping the $70 fee to cover the full cost of the Live Scan services.

Q: From what I understand, the latest research shows no correlation between student achievement and homework given in elementary school. Given this data, are there any plans to address the amount and type of homework assigned at the elementary level?

A: We respect the professional judgement of our teachers in establishing appropriate levels of meaningful homework. If you have concerns about the type and amount of homework please schedule a conversation with your child’s teacher.

Last year BUSD, completed a working session with teachers, parents and administrators to review our homework guidelines. The following guidelines were created and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis with input from parents, teacher, students and administrators: http://www.burbankusd.org/District/Department/12-Instructional-Services/12943-Homework-Guidelines.html

Q: Reminder to teachers about no charge for required class materials: Students shouldn’t have to go to the student store to buy a vocab handbook @ $12 for their class. Old school – “writing the assignment on the board” or passing out a Xerox for the week is a better route. How is the district making site administrators and teachers aware that they cannot ask students to pay for mandatory classroom materials?

A: We have been sharing information with our administrators about not charging for mandatory materials. Please notify your administrator if this is occurring at your school site.

Q: Not all schools have matching grading scales, but should. Example, all middle school 7th grade math should have the same percentages assigned to tests and quizzes, etc. Evaluations should also be done to make sure percentages are appropriate. I don’t find that 60% of the overall grade should be reliant on tests. Students who don’t test well (anxiety, etc.) will not fare well, and won’t be an accurate assessment of how well they know the material.

A: The global grading policy is outline in board policy http://gamutonline.net/district/burbank/displayPolicy/477678/ Specific scales of a department may vary by site. In order to understand the scale, it is best to contact the teacher or principal directly. Education code 49066 states that the teacher is the only one who determines the grades http://gamutonline.net/district/burbank/displayPolicy/132284/.

Q: In order to best access our child’s knowledge of material, it’s helpful to see the test with the scantron vs. just the scantron. Please have teachers send them home.

A: Teachers are willing to meet with individual students and parents to review a test, but they do not send the test itself home because it is a secure test.  This means that other students will be taking the test.