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Parents defend IB PYP program

by MAUREEN DOLAN
Staff Writer | April 24, 2010 9:00 PM

HAYDEN - Parents of students attending Hayden Meadows Elementary School gathered Thursday to defend the school's upcoming formal authorization as an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme school.

The program has been the recent target of public criticism at school board meetings, although school staff and parents have been working together toward achieving IB World School status since 2006.

"This is just a small representation of the support that we really have," said Katie Kladar, a mother of five who has been on the school's PYP advisory board for the past four years.

Of the 22 parents who attended, a common refrain was heard from the moms and dads who spoke - because of PYP's inquiry-based method of instruction, their children have become self-directed learners who are empowered to take responsibility for their work, and are encouraged to reflect on what they're learning with their peers and their teachers.

"My kids literally will come home and do research for fun on the computer," Kladar said.

Kladar said Hayden Meadows has not, in the last year, received any money from the school district or PTA to pay the annual fees charged by the International Baccalaureate Organization, or for teacher training or materials for PYP.

"It's all been supported solely through our (the parents) fundraising efforts, not one cent of taxpayer dollars," Kladar said.

The breakdown of the cost of PYP at Hayden Meadows, Kladar said, is about $20 per child per year.

Brandie Chapman, the mother of twin 9-year-old third-graders, said she has been impressed by the student-led conferences.

"I came to my parent-teacher conference to speak with the teacher and was pleasantly surprised when my child got up and had done a Power Point presentation. In third grade, running a computer and doing a Power Point presentation is pretty spectacular," Chapman said.

At the conferences her children asked questions and participated in the process, discussing the things they thought they needed to work on.

Tami Savage, a mother of four whose two older children attended elementary school in another state, said Hayden Meadows is far superior to the other school she has experience with.

"My kids have learned to think, openly, and to question things. When they get something that they want to learn about, they think about it in a holistic way instead of, 'This is just a math problem,'" Savage said. "And the parental involvement in this school is so much more than the other school that we went to in Colorado."

Principal Lisa Pica agreed that parents are very active at Hayden Meadows, averaging about 20 volunteers per day.

Parents of students living outside the Hayden Meadows attendance zone like the program as well.

Under the Coeur d'Alene School District's open enrollment policy, 32 students living in other school zones have requested transfers to the school this year.

"I signed a stack of them when school started last fall," Pica said.

She explained that PYP is not a separate curriculum from the school district's or the state's standards, but rather, provides a framework for teachers to educate students within.

Hayden Meadows students ISAT scores exceed the state's benchmarks for student proficiency, Pica said.

"As an administrator, it's incredible to walk into these rooms and see kids really engaged in learning, self-directed learning. It's not something that just happens. It's very intentional," Pica said.

The school's mission statement asserts that Hayden Meadows, "empowers students to become global thinkers and active inquirers in order to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to be lifelong learners and contributing citizens in our diverse world."

"Like the rest of the district, we also teach character traits," Pica said. "Students learn to respect all people, no matter their differences."

Terry Russo, parent of one of the few minority students at the school, said she thinks the way they teach at Hayden Meadows helps children living in North Idaho understand that there is more diversity beyond this community.

"I mean, look around this room. I don't see any minorities here," Russo said. "We grew up in Wisconsin where you have all the cultures represented. Moving here it was a little bit of a shock, and we were a little concerned, but with this program in place it makes me feel better having my daughter here."

Nancy Stevenson, a 20-year educator who coordinates PYP at Hayden Meadows, said the curriculum follows all Idaho state standards. That includes a "global perspectives" content standard that applies to every grade level at all Idaho public schools, Stevenson said. It requires that educators "build an understanding of multiple perspectives and global interdependence."

Stevenson said the school's IB authorization should arrive any day.

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