Meeting minutes on HCPSS Chinese/World Language Teaching

Summary of meeting on HCPSS Chinese/World Language Teaching

Recorded by Chao Wu

This summary is solely my recollection of the meeting. If anybody finds any discrepancy, please let me know and I will correct them. We really appreciate this opportunity to meet both River Hill and HCPSS staff to discuss this issue. Thanks for their time.

Time: September 6, 2016, 7:30PM-9:10PM. Location: River Hill High School Media Room (Information Center)

  • Attendances: around 45 parents,
  • River Hill High School Principal Mrs. Kathryn McKinley. Assistant Principal Napoleon Saunders II
  • HCPSS central office Gina Massella, Administrative Director of High Schools, Robert Cole, Coordinator of Digital Education, Leslie Grahn, Coordinator of World Languages
  • Some teachers from River Hill High School
  • Other staff; Dr. Roger Sandrain,  (Teaching synchronized online course of Differential Equation), Jennifer xx, Office of Curriculum (?), Evelyn Crown Office of Curriculum(?)

Mrs. Leslie Grahn introduced herself as an experienced world language expert from the beginning.

  1. She talked about “Distance teaching” program, which has been carried out for 8 out of 12 high schools now.
  2. The synchronized online teaching has the same curriculum as face-to-face teaching.
  3. HCPSS is hiring a new instructive assistant in Chinese language teaching.
  4. All the courses are based in Canvas, recorded.

I will not write down who raised the questions. All the questions answered by either Principal McKinley or staff from HCPSS central office.

Q1: any staff change due to budget cut

A1: Class size is set 33 as limit. Any class size below 15 has the following options:

  • Drop the class
  • Other options-convert it to other format such as synchronized online teaching: US history AP class (one student), differential equation class (from eight school)
  • Before Chinese AP was moved to synchronized online teaching, 11 registered Chinese AP. After that, eight dropped from the class. River Hill principal did not agree with the numbers, but she did not present her numbers either.

Q2 : combining Chinese class 3 + class 4. Why last day to announce cut teachers and change of class?

A2: Still less than 15.   It is a very difficult decision.

Q3: Why River Hill? Before the policy, 11 students registered, after the policy change, 8 dropped the class. What did not you think?

A3: More students registered at Marriott Ridge High School than River Hill. So we moved the teacher to Marriott Ridge, cut the teacher at River Hill.

Students dropped the class for various reasons, not just because of this class policy change.

Q4: Any research on the effectiveness of online teaching? If not, why make such change before any research was done?

A4:  this is a great invention from our county HCPSS. We are still improving it.

A mother spoke out that his son dropped off Chinese due to the synchronized online teaching after the first class, because it is very challenging to learn a foreign language in such environment.

Q5: 1) Hope the school could improve transparency when making the decision on the last days of school.  That will improve mutual understanding between schools and parents.

2) If some classes have to be changed to online teaching, can the school  try to keep relative low-level class as face-to-face?

3) Teacher-student relationship is very important for language class instruction.

4) Zoe Jordan’s mom shared her powerful testimony. She is studying in New York University-Shanghai Campus.

A5: no comments from staff.

Q6: when will the decision be revisited? How is the decision to cut staff be made?

A6: There is no plan to revisit this decision for this year. The classes will be reviewed year by year.

Q7: How about Vision 2018 Initiative? Is class enrollment  the only factor to cut staff?

A7: We value Vision 2018 initiative, world language is a priority. Enrollment is not the only factor for the school to make decisions.

Q8/A8: River Hill High School math teacher discussed many benefits of the online “differential equation” class. There is no any negative effect mentioned at all.

Bob Coale talked about Synchronized classroom. The class size limit is 24. They tried to improve the student experience using this system at the first class. He thinks students will love this online format.

Q9: (Audience commented) on the previous great benefits of “Synchronized’ online class. There will be no first class for the language class since when they hear the language class is instructed online, they just do not register the class at all.

A9: there is no class period change for the online instruction.

Q10: Will the decision to change class format be revisited?

A10: maybe not, but the classes are evaluated on yearly basis.

Q11: Are there any world languages taught in this way in HCPSS?

A11: We lost Italian, Latin program because of low enrollment number. They belong to “less taught languages”: could not find teacher and could not hold/retain the students.

Q12: The low enrollment number partially is because we started the language too late. Can we start some Chinese from elementary schools?

A12: No plan to start Chinese language from elementary school. Currently two middle schools have it. There are not enough certified teachers.

Some parents in the audience mentioned that there are several Chinese Schools in Howard County which can serve as resources for certified Chinese language teachers in HCPSS.

Q13/A13: Bob discussed the benefits of digital medium classroom. Parents said for the first class, especially language class, face-to-face teaching is very important to attract students’ attention and consequently retain the students in the class.

Q14/A14:  for Coleman. The first week was complicated with many technology issues. But that is not an issue at all for the teaching since teachers may have different class content.

Q15: (parent) We have scheduling issue between Atholton High School and River Hill High School.

A15: back-to-school night schedules were different at 2 schools. The schedule between different schools should be synchronized.

Q16: Will river Hill student meet Atholton teacher?

A16: Yes. Will plan for one-to-one support from teacher online for River Hill High School students.

Q17: Will Athlon teacher be available for River Hill ?

A17 Yes. Wednesday, after second period.

Q18:  Voice was distorted for online teaching. Students in Athlon may not use the devise as the teacher is in their classroom.

A18: Voice distortion was solved. Future technology improvement will make it better. Students in Athlon are required to use the device in classroom.

Q19: How about field trip for the language student?

A19: Open to all students from all schools.

Q20: One parent suggested we should have routine meetings in the future to keep the communication channel open.  It was asked if there are any blueprint (document) for this digital teaching.

A20: yes. possibly during the Nov. 2016 “American education week”.  There are no blue print, no research to back up benefits of  online teaching.

Q21/A21: HCPSS is on the cutting edge of 21st century education by moving it online.

Q22: What is the performance of expectation of online teaching? One parent shared his son’s experience with face-to-face teaching elevated the relationship between teacher and student because of teacher’s present. Mrs. Hui Liang’s class helped his son to register/enjoy/improve in the language.

A21: priority is the student.

Q23: Any update on the initiatives listed in HCPSS World Language Program Update dated March 2015?

A23: Chinese placement test has been implemented. Considering dual enrollment at HCC and other pathways to improve the Chinese language teaching.

Q24: Thanks for your interactions with us. Different teaching methods should be explored. Chinese schools would love to help HCPSS on the Chinese language education.

Audiences recommended the Columbia Association’s World Language Cafes for language learners. It is held on the fourth Tuesday of the month from 7 – 9 pm at the East Columbia Library’s 50+ Center (6600 Cradlerock Rd, Columbia).

Furthermore, River Hill High School Principal would love to meet us again in Nov. 2016 during American Education Week.

We need ask ourselves: Are we on the right track? The following is a slide from HCPSS presentation.


4 thoughts on “Meeting minutes on HCPSS Chinese/World Language Teaching

  1. E Chau says:

    Dr. Wu,

    You mentioned “policy change.”

    Sometimes, our school system attempts to tell parents that changes are being made due to “policy change.”

    What they are actually doing is substituting practice for policy to further their agenda?

    Ask HCPSS to tell you EXACTLY which policy they are citing.

    Also, it’s too bad CAPA wasn’t more thoughtful with its Board of Ed candidate endorsements. You didn’t support a member who would likely really be supporting you now….

  2. Lisa M says:

    What you don’t understand Dr. Wu, is that this is what the Superintendent wants for ALL schools. She has lined up ed tech companies to “teach” children. This is called a number of things Competency Based Education (CBE), Blended Learning, 21st century education, digital learning/education. All of it amounts to children sitting on computers in classrooms all day with very little social interaction with teachers. Please keep digging and asking questions. None of this is good for children. The use of technology in the classroom is a good thing, but not when it is used to replace actual teaching by a trained teacher. Please look at the HCPSS website and look at how many ed-tech contracts the Superintendent has lined up for our children. You can find all the digital contracts here. Scroll to the bottom so that you can access both areas.

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