Friday, January 13, 2017

Listening posts are for listening

I enjoyed last night’s school board listening post on the facilities master plan at Kirkwood Elementary School. About twenty people (and several district staff members) came out on a cold winter night to exchange views and ideas about the district’s building plans. (It was almost caucus-esque!) Two more listening posts are scheduled next week.

One thing I wish had been different, though: A listening post on the facilities master plan should not be preceded by a twenty-minute commercial for the facilities master plan. I understand that it’s helpful to present some information at the outset so people can have well-informed discussions, but it should not be presented in a way designed to influence the opinions we’ll hear from the participants.

The hard question facing the board is just what it takes to create a bond proposal that has a reasonable chance of attaining 60% approval at the polls. I was very curious to hear people’s opinions on that question last night. Of course, people who attend the listening posts may be particularly likely to favor the bond, but even those who most strongly favor the bond have to think objectively about how to maximize its chances of passage. If they voice their opinions only after sitting through a lengthy pro-bond argument, without hearing any of the likely counterarguments, they’re going to be in less of a position to realistically assess the prospects of different proposals.

Similarly, the group activities should not involve leading questions. (“Please share a short story of how the facilities project(s) have impacted your students.”)

I’ve written before about how our district sometimes seems incapable of soliciting public input without trying to manipulate it. Why walk right into that criticism?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Enrollment projections versus planned capacity

In preparing for the board’s discussion of the facilities master plan and possible bond proposals, I updated my chart showing projected enrollment versus planned building capacity. I thought I might as well post it in case anyone finds it useful. I don’t trust myself not to have made any errors in filling it out, so please let me know if you catch one. The sources are listed at the end.

Notice that the entire table is based on the future elementary and secondary boundaries. So, for example, there are projections for Grant and Hoover East in 2017 and 2018, even though those schools won’t open until until 2019.

This document can give you a good sense of the timeline of projects under the current facilities plan, which was created before the board drew new attendance zones and before we received our latest set of enrollment projections. An overview of the facilities plan, with estimated project costs, is here. More detail here.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

School board agenda for Tuesday, January 10

This week, among other things, the board will hear an update on the district’s progress on the issue of seclusion enclosures (previous posts here and here), we’ll hear an update about state legislative issues that affect the schools, and we’ll consider whether to adopt the latest version of the draft policy articulating the district’s weighted resource allocation model—that is, its effort to funnel more resources toward higher-need schools.

At the work session, we’ll discuss how to go forward with the plans to ask the voters for bonding authority to fund projects in the district’s facilities master plan. (Info here.) The board chair, Chris Lynch, has proposed that we initially ask for authority only for projects in the first two or three years of the plan, which would mean asking the voters to authorize about $75-95 million in bonds. The remaining projects could be funded either by subsequent bond votes or via the SAVE tax if the legislature eventually extends that tax.

The board will also discuss whether there should be changes in the facilities plan as we consider what an initial bond proposal would include. A (presumably non-exhaustive) list of potential topics appears here.

The full meeting agendas are here and here; please chime in with a comment about anything that catches your attention.

Follow-up: Voluntary transfers

At our last board meeting, I moved to prohibit next year’s ninth-graders from transferring into Liberty High from outside Liberty’s attendance area, and the motion passed. Here are my reasons for the motion:

First, ninth-grade transfers will worsen the projected overcrowding at Liberty. When Liberty opens, it will have a capacity of 1000 seats, and our enrollment projections show that, even without any voluntary transfers, its enrollment will be over 1000 as of 2019-20:

By contrast, Liberty in its first two years (2017-18 and 2018-19) is likely to be underfilled, because students from the classes of 2018 and 2019 are allowed to finish up at West High if they choose to.

As a result, I was not against allowing juniors and seniors to transfer into Liberty next year, since they will help fill the building in its initial years and will be gone before the building becomes overcrowded. But I had concerns about allowing freshmen and sophomores to transfer in next year, because they will still be there when the enrollment exceeds the building’s capacity. By the time next year’s freshmen graduate, Liberty is projected to be already 12% over capacity (while we anticipate plenty of space available at West High). Any transfers we allow will simply make that number worse.

Second, the board needs to consider this issue in light of its decision assign the Kirkwood area to the Liberty High zone. The board chose to require students in the Kirkwood area, which has a relatively high proportion of students from low-income households, to attend Liberty, in order to promote socioeconomic balance among the secondary schools. I voted against that decision, because I was concerned that Kirkwood-area students would be made worse off by having to attend schools that are farther away and more difficult to get to and from. But now that they’re assigned to Liberty, the least we can do is not overcrowd the building.

Moreover, there is a fairness issue. Many Kirkwood-area students are effectively required to attend Liberty whether they want to or not. Freshman and sophomores are ineligible to transfer out of Liberty in 2017-18, and even if transfers were available, students must provide their own transportation, which lower-income families are less likely to have the means to do. Again, the board majority justified the Kirkwood decision on the grounds that it would promote socioeconomic balance and reduce overcrowding. So how could the board then allow better-off families—those with the means to provide their own transportation—to transfer into Liberty, even when it would undermine socioeconomic balance and worsen overcrowding? If we’re willing to say “no” to low-income families, we need to be willing to say “no” to better-off families too.

At the meeting, I could not get a clear sense of how the administration planned to handle transfer requests into Liberty, so I moved to close Liberty High to transfers from ninth graders (except for those who meet hardship criteria) next year. The motion passed, 4-3. (Board members Hemingway, Roesler, Roetlin, and I voted yes; Directors DeLoach, Kirschling, and Lynch voted no.)

Liberty is slated to receive a 500-seat addition as of 2022-23 (a year after next year’s freshmen will graduate). As we get closer to that date, become more certain of the funding for the addition, and have a better sense of how much growth to expect in the Liberty zone, it will make sense for the board to revisit the transfer issue.

Previous posts here.

Follow-up: Changes to the science curriculum

At a board meeting last month (the one I missed due to illness), the board approved an administrative proposal to change the junior high and high school science curriculum. One aspect of the proposal was a change to the current practice of allowing students to accelerate by skipping the ninth-grade Foundations of Science class and taking Biology instead. By accelerating in that way, those students are then able to take more advanced science classes before they graduate. Under the new proposal, students would be able to accelerate only by doubling up on science classes in either eighth or ninth grade. Moreover, eighth-graders would be allowed to accelerate only if they scored in the 95th percentile in science on the Iowa Assessments as seventh-graders and were enrolled in the more advanced junior high math course.

Others have written more extensively about the drawbacks of this new approach (links below). I agree with the one dissenting board member, Lori Roetlin, that the administration should go back to the drawing board and develop a proposal that would not make acceleration so problematic. In particular, I have the following concerns (all of which have been raised by others as well):

  • The new requirement, by incentivizing students to double up on science courses, will inevitably hurt enrollment in other elective courses. It will likely decrease participation in music and art courses. Many disciplines, given free rein, might choose to expand their share of the students’ school day, but the board needs to take all disciplines into account when setting curricular requirements.

  • The 95th-percentile cutoff for allowing students to accelerate in eighth grade appears to be entirely arbitrary—designed to fill a set number of seats, rather than to match students with the best course. As Karen W. writes, “The Iowa Assessments are not placement exams and the administration has provided no evidence that this particular cut score would predict success in the new [Earth and Space Science] course or that students with lower scores would not be successful.”

    More broadly, I’d like to see the board discuss the way the district uses Iowa Assessment scores to limit enrollment in advanced courses. What are the costs and benefits of that system as opposed to one in which students (with the advice of parents and counselors) could self-enroll in advanced course by choice?

  • The 95th percentile cutoff appears likely to have the effect of minimizing the number of minority students enrolled in the accelerated science track (see commentary here and here).

  • I’m not convinced that the new approach is the only workable way to comply with the state science standards. Karen W. makes a good case for the idea the material that would be covered in the 7th-8th-9th-grade sequence could be covered in 7th and 8th grade in an accelerated course, without doubling up. Apparently alternative approaches are being taken elsewhere (see the comments here).

Others have expanded on this list of concerns. Here is a list of posts on the topic (please chime in with a comment if I’ve missed any):

ICCSD Science Program Proposal, Revisited
Curriculum Review and the School Board
New science curriculum deserves more attention
ICCSD Science Program Proposal
Community Comment 11/8
Proposed changes to the science curriculum
More Questions Than Answers
Science Curriculum Review Report

Thursday, January 5, 2017

How should we determine the target enrollment for an elementary school?

I’ve been posting about how small schools tend to generate outlier class sizes. These posts naturally raise the question: What can we do to minimize the likelihood of outlier class sizes in small schools? But they also raise another question: How should we determine how many kids it makes sense to enroll in any particular elementary school building? In this post, I want to consider the latter question.

When the district draws attendance zones—or even if it abandons geographic attendance zones and tries something like a magnet school—it can’t avoid setting target enrollment numbers for the buildings. There is a wishful-thinking aspect to that task, since it’s hard to predict how many kids will show up from year to year. But it’s an unavoidable task. It affects not just how we draw attendance zones but also how we assess whether to build new elementary capacity.

In determining the target enrollment for a particular building, we need to assume that there will be a roughly equal number of kids in each grade level. We all know this assumption is false, and that there will sometimes be a lot of variation in the enrollment in different grades. But that variation is arbitrary and unpredictable, so you can’t plan around it. So I don’t see any alternative to assuming equal enrollment in each grade level (while recognizing that unpredictable departures from that assumption will be the norm).

Our district has assigned “capacity” numbers to its buildings. In the past, it did so by simply multiplying the number of classrooms by a typical class size (in those days, 23). More recently, it used consultants to assign capacity numbers based on square footage and other factors. But neither one of those methods gives us a good sense of what the target enrollment should be. It doesn’t always make sense to use every available room as a general education classroom, and any enrollment target has to be realistic about what class sizes the district can afford to staff.

An example: In my previous post, I argued that in a school with fourteen available classrooms, the highest number of students you could enroll, without exceeding the class size goals, is 364.  But what if there are sixteen available classrooms?  Shouldn’t that mean that you could enroll more kids?  But it doesn’t, because there’s no way to spread seven grades over sixteen rooms without creating very problematic class sizes.  In that situation, I believe the fourteen-classroom model is still your best option (subject to alternatives I’ll soon discuss).  So the presence of those extra two classrooms doesn’t necessarily increase the number of gen-ed kids you can reasonably aspire to enroll.  It may well make sense to put those two extra rooms to some other use, such as preschool classrooms or dedicated special ed rooms.

In other words, there’s a difference between how many kids will “fit” in a building and what the target enrollment should be. I don’t have a strong opinion about what the optimal numbers are; if you think there’s a better number to shoot for in a building with fourteen (or sixteen) available classrooms, I hope you’ll chime in with a comment. But many of our current “capacity” numbers are very unhelpful. Mann’s listed capacity is 242—but what is the model for dividing 242 up into classes in seven grade levels? Alexander’s listed capacity is 500—but we put temporaries there as soon as the enrollment approached 400, in part because it qualifies for smaller class sizes as a high-need school. “Old” Hoover’s capacity is listed as 304—but since it can easily use fourteen rooms as gen-ed classrooms, it would make sense to put at least 350 kids there. (Before the closure vote, it did enroll that many.) We have special-use classrooms at many schools, but we don’t adjust those schools’ capacity numbers to take into account the unavailability of those rooms. The list goes on.

Our entire facilities plan, involving multi-million dollar projects, is driven by the district’s capacity numbers, but many of them do not accurately reflect how we can and will use our buildings. The district needs to develop a target enrollment number for each building that depends not just on the size of the building or the number of classrooms, but on a plan for how the rooms will actually be used and how the grades will (ideally) be distributed among them—a plan that tries to minimize the chance of outlier class sizes.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A class size math problem, part 2

A few weeks ago, I posted a “class size math problem” to illustrate how small elementary schools tend to generate outlier class sizes. The post received a lot of good comments—but nobody did the math problem! Specifically, the question was how many students you’d want to assign to a school that had ten (or, alternatively, fourteen) general education classrooms, and what the class sizes would be in each grade. The one constraint was that you had to assume that there would be a roughly equal number of kids in each grade level.

One purpose of the experiment was to show that it’s hard, in small schools, to have class sizes that stay in the neighborhood of the district’s class size goals. The goals, for most schools, are not to exceed 26 kids in grades K-2 and 30 kids in grades 3-6. We don’t want class sizes to exceed those goals, but if class sizes are too far below them, they undermine the district’s attempt to reallocate resources to higher-need schools. (More complete explanation here.)

Without mixing grade levels, this was the closest I could come to the class size goals, without exceeding them, in the ten-classroom school:

As you can see, many of the classes are very small—way below the district goal for grades K-2. That puts upward pressure on class sizes elsewhere and makes it harder to redirect resources to higher-need schools.

In the fourteen-classroom school, this was the closest I could come to the goals without exceeding them:

This school is significantly fairer to the district’s other schools, since its average class size is closer to the district-wide medians. It does less to undermine the district’s efforts to reallocate resources to higher-need schools. It accommodates a lot more kids. You could make those early-grade class sizes smaller—I’m sure many people would balk at the idea of a 26-kid kindergarten class—but only if you’re willing to live with smaller class sizes in the higher grades, too. As the upper-grade class sizes fall farther below the goals, class sizes elsewhere in the district would have to rise.

These scenarios assume an equal number of kids in each grade level. In reality, there is often a lot of variation in enrollment in the different grades. That’s a big part of what makes class sizes hard to manage in small schools. It’s actually hard to get much closer to the district goals than the “ideal” fourteen-classroom school, but the great advantage of larger schools is in their ability to handle that anomalous year-to-year variation, since they can spread the effects out over a greater number of classrooms.

In my next few posts, I’ll consider alternatives (such as mixed grades, paired schools, and the use of half-time teachers) that can help alleviate the class size issue in small schools.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Follow-up: Seclusion enclosures

At our last work session, the board agreed that the administration should form a committee to determine best practices and consider potentially improving or eliminating the district’s use of seclusion enclosures. The committee will include parents, teachers, and interested community members. It will report back to the board within a month or two.

I think that was the best result we could have expected from the discussion at the work session on the topic. Speaking as just one board member, I don’t see the board as having delegated the decisionmaking on this issue to the committee. An administrative committee can be a great help in researching the issue and in doing the drafting of a potential policy, but it’s also true that, since committee members are appointed by the administration, a committee is not necessarily representative of the larger community. The board should review committee recommendations with an open mind but should not simply rubber-stamp them.

Meanwhile, a local lawyer has brought a complaint against the district at the State Department of Education, alleging that the district’s use of seclusion enclosures violates federal laws and regulations. You can read the complaint here.

When I posted about this topic in October, several commenters asked for a list of district schools that have seclusion enclosures. The complaint contains such a list as its Exhibit 1 on pages 7 and 8 of the PDF.

One more update: Yesterday, the federal government issued new, non-binding “significant guidance” on the use of restraint and seclusion in school, which I assume will be part of what informs the district’s discussion of “best practices.”

Follow-up: Police in school

A few weeks back, at a meeting I had to miss because of illness, the school board discussed the district’s relationship with the local police department.

The police department had been running a program in which it sent a representative into elementary schools to eat lunch with the kids. The program’s stated goal was to “maintain a positive, visible presence in the community, establish and maintain relationships in the community and hopefully open up broader communications channels.” The district tried to formalize some aspects of that program through a written agreement with the police department, and the department took offense at the district’s proposal that the “outreach assistant” not wear a uniform. The police department then decided to suspend the program and to stop any “self-initiated” visits to the schools until it received an explicit invitation to continue from the school board. At the November 22 work session, the board agreed to invite the police department to continue its outreach program and to resume “business as usual” with self-initiated visits.

I can understand the appeal of enabling kids to have positive interactions with police, whom some kids might otherwise view fearfully or in a negative light. And I know, like, and respect Henri Harper, the outreach assistant under the program. But I do have concerns about the larger issue; anything the district does on this issue will set a precedent that will apply not just to Henri Harper and not even just to police departments.

First, it was not clear what police self-initiated “business as usual” in the schools entails. The board asked for a follow-up report summarizing the police department’s activities in the schools, but I would have wanted to know what “business as usual” meant before formally inviting its return. As to “self-initiated” police visits to the schools, I wrote about several concerns here.

Second, although the department has said that the outreach assistant is “not a sworn officer and does not have any enforcement capabilities,” it’s not clear exactly what that means. I assume he cannot arrest people? But what happens if a kid mentions, for example, that one of his parents was smoking a joint? I have to think that the outreach assistant has the power to notify his department of criminal activity, and, if necessary, to testify in court. The outreach assistant works for the police department, not for the school system; the school system would have no control over how the outreach assistant handles a situation like that one. I’d prefer to have that kind of decision made by school officials.

Third, there are many organizations that might be happy to send representatives into our schools to counsel and build relationships with students. The Chamber of Commerce? The American Civil Liberties Union? The U.S. Army? Planned Parenthood? Many of them could make persuasive arguments about why students would benefit from knowing more about their organizations and what they do. The district needs to have a consistent approach to handling such requests. At the very least it makes sense for the district to want to vet such interactions and reach agreements about the content. But at some point I wonder how much it should be the district’s job to provide audiences for the outreach efforts of outside organizations, no matter how worthy the cause.

Most of the schools in the police outreach program have a high proportion of black and African-American students, and the elephant in the room that went undiscussed at the board meeting is the troubled relationship between law enforcement and racial minorities in America. The police department is a law enforcement agency. It is the entry point to our very imperfect criminal justice system. That system currently incarcerates and disenfranchises black Americans at an unbelievably high rate. On the one hand, proponents of the outreach program may hope that it will help improve the way the justice system interacts with minorities. But, especially for minority parents, the question of what children should be taught to think about the police (and about the larger criminal justice system) is a very complicated one that does not have an objectively correct answer. Just consider some of these examples of “the Talk”—the advice that many black parents feel they have to give to their kids about interactions with the police.

I don’t know the “right” way to approach that topic, and I don’t particularly trust the school district to know either, especially if its only approach is to provide the perspective of a representative of the police department. (Again, no offense intended to the current outreach officer here; but we don’t know who the next representative, and the next one, and the next one will be.) For that reason, at the very least it would make sense to limit participation in the program to kids whose parents explicitly opt them into it.

Readers: What role do you think the district should take in teaching kids about race and our criminal justice system?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

School board agenda for December 13

Sorry, I was knocked out for a few weeks by a seasonal illness and have been unable to keep up the usual posting here. I’m still catching up on the lost time, but I do hope to be able to post more as we head into the holidays.

A quick summary of some of the items on the agenda for this week:

We’ll continue the discussion of the district’s anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies.

We’ll continue (and probably conclude) the discussion of how the district should handle voluntary transfer requests at the secondary level as we open a new high school and implement new boundaries. Previous posts here.

We’ll hear an update from the committee studying transportation barriers to attendance and participation in extracurricular activities at the secondary level.

We’ll review the newly updated enrollment projections.

At our work session after the meeting, we’ll discuss the issue of the district’s use of seclusion enclosures. (Previous post here.) We’ll continue our discussion of possible revisions to the district’s facilities master plan as we move toward developing a bond proposal to fund the remaining projects in the plan. We will also discuss the feedback we received through the ThoughtExchange platform.

All that and more! The full agendas are here and here; please chime in with a comment about anything that catches your attention.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

A class size math problem

In my last post, I discussed how smaller elementary schools tend to generate more outlier class sizes. Before I explore possible ways to mitigate that problem, here are a couple of hypothetical questions that help illustrate the issue:

1. Suppose you have a school that has fourteen rooms available as general education classrooms. What would be ideal total enrollment at that school? What would the individual class sizes be?

2. Suppose you have a school that has ten rooms available for general education classrooms. What would be ideal total enrollment at that school? What would the individual class sizes be?

I chose fourteen classrooms and ten classrooms because those numbers work especially well for class size. In a fourteen-room school, you can have two classrooms for each grade level from K through 6. In a ten-room school, you can have two classrooms in each grade from K through 2 (where we usually try to have smaller class sizes), and then one classroom in each grade from 3-6 (where we usually tolerate larger class sizes).

The only constraint: You have to assume there will be an equal number of students at each grade level. So if there are 30 total sixth graders, there are also 30 total kindergartners, though you’re free to split some grade levels into multiple classrooms while not splitting others. (The reason for this constraint is that there is no good way to draw attendance zones that would result in consistently different enrollment totals in the lower grades than in the higher grades.)

Assume that the school is not a high-need school that would qualify for lower-than-average class sizes under the district’s weighted resource allocation model. So the district’s goal would be to keep the class sizes below 26 in grades K-2 and below 30 in grades 3-6. You can exceed those caps if you think that’s the best solution. But you should recognize that anything falling significantly below those goals will put your school below the district averages and make it harder to allocate teachers to high-need schools.

What are the best answers?

Small schools and class size

As will come as news to no one, I put a high priority on keeping our existing schools open; among other things, I think it’s a key ingredient in maintaining community support for district initiatives and it plays an important role in maintaining livable, family-friendly neighborhoods in the central core of Iowa City. But I don’t deny that there are costs involved in keeping our smaller schools open, and I think it’s important to think about what those costs are and whether there are ways to mitigate them.

In this post, I want to consider the effect of small schools on class size. When the district sets class size goals, it can give the impression that class sizes can be fine-tuned. For example, the most recent draft of those goals suggests that most elementary schools should have class sizes of no more than 26 from kindergarten through second grade, and no more than 30 in grades three through six. (The class size goals are lower than that in schools with higher levels of academic need, but most schools will not fall into that category.)

But conforming to those goals is easier said than done, especially in our smaller schools. A school with an enrollment of 240 is likely to have about 34 kids per grade. What do you do with that number? A 34-kid kindergarten classroom is much larger than ideal, so the district would almost certainly choose to break it into two 17-kid classes—a lot nicer, but way below what we could afford to staff district-wide. What if 40 sixth-graders show up? Again, 20 is a wonderful class size, but it’s way below the district median for sixth-graders.

In other words, smaller schools tend to produce more outlier class sizes, forcing the district to choose between class sizes that are significantly above the goals or significantly below them. This effect lessens somewhat as you get into enrollments of over three hundred. A 300-kid school will tend to produce class sizes in the twenties, which is at least better than having to choose between 17 or 34. But it would still be subject to year-to-year fluctuations that could generate uncomfortable choices, and class sizes in the low twenties are still below the district median.

By contrast, large schools give the district enough flexibility that they seldom result in outlier class sizes. In a 600-kid school (assuming the kids are spread out evenly over the seven grades), you can have class sizes of about 21 in the lower grades and 29 in the higher grades. Even if a bigger-than-usual group shows up in one grade, it gets spread out over three or four classrooms, so it’s not liable to generate class sizes as high as 34. As a result, the large school may be less likely to get an additional teacher than the small school with the 34-kid cohort.

In particular, smaller schools pose a challenge for the district’s weighted resource allocation model—that is, the effort to allocate smaller class sizes to school with higher academic need. To create smaller class sizes in high-need schools, we need to tolerate larger class sizes in the remaining schools. If that effect is spread out over many schools, the effect on any one school will be smaller and thus the model will be more politically sustainable. But it’s not so easy for smaller schools to take a “fair share” of that effect—again, because the choice will often be between a class size that greatly exceeds the goals and one that is much smaller than average. If the smaller schools get lower-than-average class sizes, even when they are not high-need schools, the burden of the resource reallocation will fall disproportionately on larger schools. If the smaller schools are expected to tolerate class sizes far above the goals, the burden will fall disproportionately on them. Either way, it becomes harder to sustain the reallocation effort.

Again, I’m certainly not trying to make the case for closing smaller schools. But if we’re going to resist the ongoing pressure to consider closing some of them (and not just Hoover), it makes sense to do some problem-solving around the issue of outlier class sizes. I’ll explore some possibilities in an upcoming post.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Dismantle the boxes

Several schools in our district contain enclosures known variously as (depending on who you ask) “time-out rooms,” “seclusion enclosures,” “isolation boxes,” or “solitary confinement cells.” The nature of these enclosures varies from school to school, but some of them are made of unfinished plywood, are about six feet by six feet, and are built right into the larger classroom. Some of them appear to be poorly lit to the point of being outright dark inside. The photos above show enclosures at Grant Wood Elementary School.

A child can be confined in such an enclosure as part of the school’s behavior management practices. When the enclosure is built right into the larger classroom, children in the class watch as a child in put into the enclosure. The child in the enclosure can hear the class activity going on outside, and the other kids in the classroom can hear a child’s cries coming from inside the enclosure.

There are state-enacted rules regulating when and how the enclosures can be used, though there have been questions about whether our district has complied with the rules. The Gazette had an in-depth set of articles about the enclosures in September; you can read them here, here, and here. The Daily Iowan reports on the issue today here.

I know there are difficult situations when a child may pose a risk of harm to self or others and that the district needs to have a way of dealing with those situations. There is a lot to discuss about how best to handle those situations. But it doesn’t take an extended inquiry to see that the district can do better by its students than these plywood boxes. The district needs to discontinue using them and dismantle them, in favor of creating more humane spaces and practices for dealing with difficult behavior.

School board agenda for Tuesday, November 8

Very brief meeting scheduled for this Tuesday, in Room 113, since the board room is being used an election polling place. But feel free to chime in with any comments on the agenda.