Friday, August 24, 2012

Supplemental Material for August 27, 2012 School Board Meeting

Here is the supplemental material for the upcoming School Board meeting.

The items about the Win-Win Agreement have to do with the errors Columbus City Schools made in calculating how much the suburban schools school owed Columbus Schools under the revenue sharing agreement (I prefer to call it "ransom"). From here on out, the Education Services Center of Central Ohio will be the billing and collections agent for Columbus City Schools. I guess the folks at Columbus City Schools are looking for ways to reduce their exposure to more bad press.

I've not read through the documents in detail yet, but will of course do so before the School Board meeting. Please leave a comment or send an email if there's anything you want to bring to my attention or discuss.


  1. Paul,

    Thanks for your focus and materials on the current Win-win issue.

    On a side note, what are your thoughts on the district wanting to offer a course of study in Mandarin Chinese? Any previous or current estimate provided to the board on the cost and potential student interest before the vote on Monday?

    Steve B.

    1. The district has been offering Mandarin Chinese for a couple of years via a telelearning.

      This year we have one teacher on staff. He will be teaching at all three high schools, rotating his onsite presence among the three schools, with students participating via videoteleconferencing at the other two.

      I thinking teaching Mandarin is a good idea if the student interest stays high. Clearly China will be a major economic presence for some number of decades.

      But I think we need to look at our whole high school course catalog, and look for opportunities to pare it back a little. We offer French, Spanish, German and now Chinese as foreign languages. A couple of years ago, my vote would have been to drop French. Who speaks French any more anyway? It turns out that in many of the African countries, French is a common second language. And then there's our neighbor, Quebec.

      How about German? You can set foot in every country in the world that speaks German in a day's drive. Do we teach German just because so many Americans have German heritage, especially around here? Might not our kids not be better prepared for the 21st century by studying something like Arabic?

      I wonder what languages the high school kids would pick if we told them we were going to offer only three foreign languages...

  2. "Might not our kids not be better prepared for the 21st century by studying something like Arabic?"

    One could argue that Arabic would be better preparation for the 9th century than the 21rst:

    1. To my point exactly - most Americans have no idea that it was Arabic scholars who kept math and science alive when Europe was slogging through the Dark Ages. It is an ancient and sophisticated culture, and will play an important role in our future for a long time.

      Whether one views the Arabic-speaking part of the world as enemies, friends, or just fellow passengers on Planet Earth, it seems to me that some knowledge of their language, and through that their culture, would be beneficial.

  3. From what I undestand, the top three languages besides English include Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic. I took several years of German and it sure is not one of the more common languages spoken. In my opinion, Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic make 100% complete sense as options. Maybe even Latin as the root of so many other words but not German or even French I would argue.

    Our middle-school daughter hopes to take Mandarin in high school and is excited about it. Our world has changed from when I was in high school!

    Paul, beyond languages, I commend you for mentioning that the course catalog should be reviewed. To me it makes sense to have the Board (probably through recommendations, committees, etc.) determine what courses should really be offered to help prepare the students for the future. I suspect some courses are outdated and others are pretty "lightweight" and I wonder how things line up with the new "Core Standards" we are hearing about. Please keep on plugging on!

    1. I'm not advocating that we drop German. It's the language of my ancestors as well as my wife's, I've studied it myself (Ich habe Deutsch gelernt), my kids studied German while they were in high school, and I personally know a couple of our German teachers, and have great respect for them.

      According to the last data I have, there are over 250 students who take a German class each year (avg section ~ 18 students), compared to nearly 400 who take a French class (avg section ~ 18), and close to 2,000 kids taking Spanish (avg section ~ 23).

      Another measure to look at is student/teacher ratios. I don't have that data yet, so don't know how it compares across these three languages. But foreign language teachers are very specialized, which makes scheduling a full load for a foreign language teacher more difficult than for a math teacher, for example, who could be tasked with teaching a variety of courses in order to fill their schedules.

      High school scheduling is a complex problem, with nearly 5,000 kids with a huge variety of interests. It would not be a trivial task to pare down the course catalog. But with a phased approach over say 4 years, it could be done.