Making the grade?

Cd'A advanced learning programs cause concern

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COEUR d'ALENE - During a school board workshop-style meeting held Monday, Superintendent Hazel Bauman shared with Coeur d'Alene School District trustees some concerns about the academic performance of students taking International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme and Advanced Placement courses at Lake City and Coeur d'Alene high schools.

The high school advanced learning offerings are the first programs being scrutinized as part of a comprehensive strategic planning effort in the Coeur d'Alene School District.

"We have some challenges in our test scores in both AP and IB," Bauman said.

Bauman told The Press she is disappointed in the academic results of each of the programs.

In some areas, students taking the course exams are doing well, Bauman said.

"But there are too many places where we are stagnating or even declining in student scores," she said.

At Monday's workshop, Bauman said she suspects the reduction of professional development and training opportunities for teachers could be to blame. In Coeur d'Alene and school districts throughout the state, administrations have had to scale back learning opportunities for teachers due to cuts in state education funding.

Throughout the strategic planning process, Bauman said the district needs to consider whether to continue its commitment to the various programs it offers, including those that provide support for struggling students and professional-technical education opportunities.

With the advanced learning programs at the high school level, Bauman said they will likely have to consider whether to reinvest in IB and AP and consider whether to spend money on professional development for program teachers.

"Or, do we pull the plug on one or both of these programs?" Bauman said.

Trustee Tom Hamilton said during the workshop that he does not think the school district can afford both programs.

From 2006 to 2009, the International Baccalaureate program, which is available to just juniors and seniors, was the only advanced learning option at each of the high schools.

In the face of budget cuts two years ago, the district scaled the IB program back to one school, Lake City. IB was discontinued at CHS in the fall of 2009, and the AP program was reinstituted at that school.

Hamilton said he thinks the decision whether to keep two programs in place is an economic one. He pointed out that there are teacher coordinators needed to provide the IB program, unlike the AP.

Lake City Principal Deanne Clifford said the school's IB coordinator is a staff member whose IB work represents a fraction of the job.

As part of the strategic planning process, Bauman said district administrators will complete a cost analysis of both programs and present that information to the board at a later date.

"If we set a standard that we're going to remove any program that costs 10 to 15 percent more than other programs, we'll be getting rid of a lot of programs," Bauman told The Press.

Before the district makes any decisions about whether to keep, change or abandon any programs, Bauman said they need to review them from an academic and financial perspective and consider how well they meet the needs of students and help the district achieve its goals.

Government agency workshops are open public meetings, although public comment is generally not accepted.

The Monday workshop at the Midtown Center was observed by 22 members of the public who are not school district employees.

In recent years, the International Baccalaureate high school program and the organization's elementary school offering, the Primary Years Programme in place at the district's Hayden Meadows Elementary School, have been the target of political debate.

The Kootenai County Reagan Republicans group sent out an "Action Alert" email prior to the Coeur d'Alene school board workshop. The email included an alleged "message from Duncan Koler," an anti-IB activist from Hayden.

The message encouraged people to attend the workshop to "help stick a fork in this turkey" and support trustees Tom Hamilton and Terri Seymour.

"Once again, the International Baccalaureate test scores from last spring were poor. Money continues to be thrown at this expensive failure," the message reads. "Now is the time to get rid of this UN indoctrination program."

The district is hosting a Community Chat session Monday at 5:30 p.m. at Fernan Elementary School, 520 N. 21st St.

The chat sessions, begun last year, are geared to offer all members of the public the opportunity to share opinions and ideas about Coeur d'Alene schools with district administrators and trustees.

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