Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Another Alvarado School Tour – Beautiful School, some questions about TK

As a middle school teacher I’ve had the benefit of meeting students from all over the district in my 6th grade classes.  The students from Alvarado always seemed very well prepared, socially and academically.  Alvarado was my top choice school for several years.  Last year when they opened the TK class I was very excited, and I had been looking forward to touring.

Our tour started on the yard, a beautiful sunny day.  We were broken into two groups and shown around the school.  Both tour guides love the school and their enthusiasm was infectious.  We were taken by a TK classroom first.  We did not go inside, but there was a lot of busy noise coming out of the room and the teacher was decorating a wall.  I wasn’t super impressed by the room itself, didn’t have much writing on the walls, and all the kids’ projects seems identical.  I couldn’t actually tell the difference between the room and any K classroom I’ve ever seen.  The teacher said Hi! And we were moved along, to a 1st grade immersion classroom.  As other parents have noted, the class was extremely quiet.  The teacher was actively pulling kids for a guided reading group while 30 strangers were in her room.  All the kids were on task, independently reading.  As a teacher I thought this was awesome!  Reader’s workshop is the core of the literacy block and the kids were on task even with an enormous distraction.

We also visited a GE K classroom.  It seems like a very happy, literacy rich space.  We walked into the Art room, 2 kilns! The teacher is actually employed by the district and not the PTA, she corrected the woman giving the tour about this. We also saw the “secret” garden. They have a huge after school program open to all, an active PTSA (both English speaking and Spanish speaking parents seem super involved)  and an Early start that is very convenient for our family. Overall the tour had me impressed (except maybe about TK) until the question and answer session with the principal.

In general the principal was very open about her school and her transition from being AP at Everett to principal at Alvarado.  She said it’s been a big change for her.  Two things stood out for me during the question and answer section.  First of all someone asked questions about test scores and she answered that we are currently in a “vacuum” because the state tests were cancelled last year to be replaced by the smarter balanced assessments this year.  While technically this is true, the district continues to collect data via reading assessments, an integrated writing assessment and the CLAs (Common learning assessments.)  I would have liked her to speak to this.

Secondly, someone asked about the requirements for getting into TK and she started to answer that it is based on birthday (true) then went off on a tangent about how she was so happy to start the TK program this year because adding 22 students allowed her to hire an Assistant Principal.  She was obviously thrilled to have and AP, but this didn’t technically answer the question and showed very little pedagogical knowledge about TK, other that how it is helping her do her job.  When the woman who asked the question repeated it, the PTA tour guide simply referred her to the website.  As a parent of a student attending TK it was a little off putting to be interrupted and not feel like our questions were being answered.

Overall, I think Alvarado as a community is pretty self-sustaining, I am sure my daughter would get a good education there.  It might turn out to be a first choice for me when she starts kindergarten, but I am not convinced by their TK program.

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