Despite a letter from the teachers’ union asking Racine Unified officials to slow the implementation of school academies and block scheduling, RUSD Superintendent Lolli Haws plans to keep moving ahead.

In their letter, members of the Racine Educators Association list reasons why they feel taking a few more months to plan and train for the changes is a better plan than pushing forward with plans that will fundamentally change the way students attend school, a story in The Journal Times reads.

The REA says that Haws and other district leaders haven’t put in the two years recommended for planning; teachers have not gone through a year of training and professional development associated with block scheduling; there’s no proof that block scheduling produces more educated and engaged students; and the obstacles poor students face in a traditional structure will only be magnified in a block scheduling format, the story continues.

But Haws said district leaders have fully vetted the changes but without the REA even though they were invited to participate.

““From the very first meeting, we have repeatedly invited the REA leaders to take part,”Haws is quoted as saying. “We have sought their input. Union leaders have elected not to participate. It is extremely disheartening to learn that union leaders would try to sabotage and delay this exciting communitywide effort.”

Training is expected to commence next month, she added, but REA President Aaron Eick told the newspaper that seven months isn’t enough time and a better plan would be to wait until the 2017-2018 school year.

“The research is clear. Seven months to transition to this type of scheduling is inadequate,” Eick is quoted. “We think that’s a popular view.”

The Academies of Racine idea involves students tracked into a path that gets them college and/or career ready by the time they graduate. The program is modeled on a similar set-up in Nashville that has more than a decade of success.

In a nutshell, students will choose from a variety of career/college readiness fields – automotive, business/marketing, heathcare, IT, IB/AP classes, and manufacturing, among others – and take classes while also gaining real-world experience starting in their sophomore year. An editorial in The Journal Times last summer noted the potential for success and urged community residents to support the pathways curriculum.

Block scheduling follows what students would typically find in a college setting; longer class periods but fewer classes. Instead of six or seven classes plus lunch, kids would instead attend three or four classes per day plus lunch.

The REA in their letter stresses that they do not oppose the changes; they’re are objecting instead to the timeline, the story continues.

“… without adequate time for understanding and thoughtful dialogue about the pitfalls and challenges ahead, this initiative will fall flat on its face,” the letter is quoted as reading.

Haws and Board of Education President Melvin Hargrove visited a Sturtevant Village Board meeting last June during which they talked about the academies.

“Everyone graduates with something in their pocket,” Hargrove said at the time. “Students in Nashville have been more eager to learn and participate, so they’re staying in school.”

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