Recap of Dec 2015 Forum

Fox Chapel Area District Forum Meeting

December 8, 2015

LGI Room of the High School

9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

  1. Welcome from District Forum President
  2. Introduction of Superintendent & Administrators in Attendance

III. Questions Submitted to District Forum–‐ See questions below (6)


  1. I would like to know how the district plans to address the Obama administration’s new recommended guidelines about testing. What changes can parents expect to see?–‐releases/fact–‐sheet–‐testing–‐action–‐plan Administration response–‐ The Obama administration guidelines still need to be formalized. The states may see a reduction in testing. The district has posted books on assessments on the website. The superintendent also handed out an article entitled “We Aren’t Using Assessments Correctly”. When school districts use assessments in the United States it reflects how a teacher is preforming. But should rather guide teacher instruction based on student performance. The district stresses the importance of benchmarks to gauge the students but is consistently upgrading their assessment tools. The district has switched to the Star 360 model and has found this assessment to be more efficient particularly reducing test taking time for the student without missing important class time.


  1. Decades of research show the importance of play for young children’s learning, but we seem to be moving further and further away from play in the elementary years. Some schools successfully use play–‐based learning to address standards all the way through 8th grade. What is the district’s view on this? Why not introduce more learning through play especially in Kindergarten and the early elementary years? Administration response–‐ The district states that they are required to meet academic standards by law and the core requirements. Having stated that there is many opportunities throughout the school day for the students to experience “play.” At all elementary levels there is a 30 minute recess and “specials” such as computer lab, gym, art, music and library. At the Kindergarten level play is incorporated through exploration centers in the class along with fine motor time cutting, games or puzzles. In grades 1st through 5th the students experience guided discovery, math manipulatives and science exploration. The teachers help to develop executive function skills by observing and asking questions.


  1. What about discovery–‐based or project–‐based learning. Children learn best when they are interested and when teachers follow their interests. Why choose curricula that have preset themes? Why not explore evidence–‐based curricula that focus more on following children’s own interests and on deep project–‐based learning rather than shallower explorations of many themes over a short period of time? Administration response–‐ Currently Dorseyville Middle School has implemented a project–‐based learning team. The students follow core standards and apply inquiry based objectives. Kerr Elementary has started a creative learning program. Also due to AP exams being inquiry based the High School is adopting new programs to keep the students on the most current trends of learning.


  1. In the 2015–‐2016 Student Handbook, under the heading “Personal Electronic Devices” is a bolded sentence stating: Students are not permitted to make or receive phone calls or text messages during normal school hours unless the calls or texts are for academic purposes only and the student is permitted to do so by the teacher, principal or building guidelines. This line prevents students from talking to their parents about non–‐academic matters, such as after school transportation, dinner plans, etc. Furthermore, it also prevents students from texting each other for non–‐academic reasons. Is this the intended purpose of the line? What are the building guidelines for Fox Chapel Area High Schools, and where can they be found? Who has jurisdiction during lunch or between classes when there is no specific “teacher” in charge of students? Are snapchats acceptable communication with parents? Administration response–‐ The purpose of the policy is not to interrupt school time. The consistent policy is teacher discretion. Some teachers will collect personal devices till after class time whereas some faculty encourage the use of the electronic device to do research. Students are observed by school personnel during lunch and expected to act with a sense of decorum. The school directs parents and students to follow the district handbook guidelines set forth.


  1. In March of 2014, a question was asked in the district forum asking if there were a set of published school district policies. The administration response stated: “Regarding policies on the website, there will be a plan developed to include more information on the website.” The school board’s meeting notes are available online, but the Legislation/Policy Section lists only Names and Numbers of policies. For example, the school board meeting notes from this past August lists that policies such as No. 127 “Assessment System” were revised, yet there is no information about how they were revised. Is there a plan to share school district policies online, and is there a time frame for when it will be implemented? Administration response–‐ You can find the policy on the Fox Chapel Area District website. Go to About then on to Need to Know section. The district is mandated by the state to revise policies and the final copy is posted. A possibility of 3–‐5 policy revisions could be performed at each Board meeting and updated within the week.


  1. Will there be an update to the important letter sent home with all district students? Administration response–‐ The process of the law and the rules of employment are guiding the district through the incident that was reported on the news. The Superintendent encourages parents in the district to keep abreast of the latest news coming out of Harrisburg. Lobby your politicians on any important matters that could possibly affect the district.


  1. Meeting Adjourned

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