• Kiddo!-Funded Programs

    Parent Forum Questions and Answers - 11/30/16
    As a follow up to the district forum on Kiddo!-funded programs held on November 29, 2016, we have developed a general this Q & A document, which includes questions that are representative of the kinds of questions asked and the responses provided from the panel. The panel members included Paul Johnson, MVSD Superintendent, Wendy Holmes, MVSD Director of Curriculum & Instruction, Bill Lampl, Kiddo! Executive Director, and Trisha Garlock, Kiddo! Co-founder and Former Executive Director. Our goal of the forum and this document is to increase understanding of our Kiddo!-funded programs and enhance communication with our families and community. 
    Q1:  What is the relationship between the Mill Valley School District and Kiddo!?
    A:  Kiddo!’s mission is to support quality education programs in the arts and other areas for all children in partnership with the Mill Valley School District.  This is accomplished by raising funds, gathering resources, and involving the community in supporting public education. While Kiddo! is responsible for fundraising, the district is responsible for overseeing the curricular programs and personnel. There is no distinction between core academic/regular classroom teachers and Kiddo!-funded teachers. They are all employees of Mill Valley School District. 
    Additional information about the roles of the district and Kiddo!:
    Kiddo! and the district each have specific roles in their partnership.  Kiddo!’s primary function is to raise funds to support arts education (e.g. visual arts, music, dance, drama, poetry) and other vital programs (e.g. P.E., classroom and library aides, teacher grants, technology) equitably across the district. The district oversees the curriculum and instruction of all programs, including those funded by Kiddo!.  
    As a public school district with teachers represented by the Mill Valley Teachers Association (MVTA), Mill Valley School District must oversee the curriculum and instruction of programs by teachers as indicated in the collective bargaining agreement between MVTA and the district. This cannot be directed or supervised by an outside organization such as Kiddo!. With their educational expertise, the district administrators are best suited to manage the instructional programs in our schools, including those funded by Kiddo!.  
    Q2:  Is Kiddo! in charge of evaluating Kiddo!-funded teachers and programs?
    A: No, Kiddo! is only in charge of fundraising. The district is in charge of evaluating all programs and teachers. Any feedback teachers or parents provide to Kiddo! is communicated to the school district. In addition, the district solicits feedback of Kiddo! funded programs in an annual survey to parents and teachers.
    Additional information about evaluating Kiddo!-funded teachers:
    As credentialed teachers, Kiddo!-funded teachers, like all MVSD credentialed teachers, are evaluated the same way as all other teachers in the district. There is a formal teacher evaluation process that requires a series of meetings between the teacher and his/her evaluator (who is typically the Principal or Assistant Principal) and formal lesson observations in the classroom. The intent of the process is to allow for teachers to reflect on their practice, receive feedback, and use the information as a vehicle for continuous improvement in their craft. The evaluation process is clearly outlined in the Mill Valley Teachers Association contract and is a requirement of CA Education Code.
    Administrators, including Principals, Assistant Principals, and the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, help evaluate all programs offered in the district, including Kiddo!-funded programs. There is a process for parents to provide input. Parents are encouraged to first go teachers and principals at their schools, who serve as the educational and instructional leaders. They help to ensure that we offer and maintain our high quality programs at all our schools.
    Q3: What is the process of sharing feedback or concerns about what I have observed in my child’s classroom?
    A: If you have some feedback or concerns to share about your child’s classroom, you should first speak with your child’s teacher. Most issues can be addressed by working closely with the teacher. The next person to meet with is the school principal. If there continues to be an ongoing concern, the Director of Curriculum & Instruction may offer assistance, followed by the Superintendent, and the School Board.
    Q4:  How are programs updated annually and the curriculum reviewed?
    A:  Teachers and principals reflect on and evaluate their programs on an ongoing basis. Teachers regularly bring in new resources to enhance their curriculum and integrate different instructional materials to increase the students’ excitement about their learning.  Teachers are continually refining their lessons and units, reflecting on their students’ progress, and how they can meet the needs and specific interests of the students in the classroom. Reviewing and updating curriculum is an ongoing, iterative process.
    Q5:  Does the district plan to add more hands-on science, coding and Makers Space programs? 
    A:  Yes. A Makers Space program is in place at the Middle School, and additional programs are being planned for the elementary sites. Teachers already integrate hands-on science into their classrooms, and with the transition to Next Generation Science Standards, they are receiving excellent professional development to build upon these hands-on science investigations as part of their science curriculum.  New programs, such as coding, are under consideration.  
    Q6:  Does the Art Department have an art curriculum?
    A:  We have a complete art curriculum, as we have complete curricula for all content areas. With respect to art in particular, we are in the process of developing art curriculum maps as a way of explaining to our community what is taught in the art program. The curriculum maps are organized by medium, such as drawing, printmaking, and painting, and they give you a snapshot of the kinds of projects students are doing K through 8th grade related to each medium. The curriculum maps do not include every lesson of every unit that are taught in the art room; instead, they give you a better idea of the elements that the art teachers consider when designing lessons, units and projects.  
    The art curriculum maps are located on the district website. Drawing and printmaking maps have already been developed and are posted on the website, and the painting map will be posted in the near future. The art teachers are working on developing the curriculum maps for each of the medium, including sculpture/ceramics, mixed media/crafts and photography. We hope to have all curriculum maps completed by the end of the school year.
    Here is a link to the art curriculum maps: Art Curriculum Maps
    Additional information about the art curriculum:
    Art teachers have developed an art curriculum that covers all grades in the district. It is structured into units, based on the CA Visual Arts Standards, and is organized by the different types of medium that the students work with (i.e. drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, mixed media, crafts, photography). The curriculum allows students to complete a range of art projects each year. For each project, teachers have thoughtfully designed lessons that allow students to deepen their conceptual understanding, develop particular art skills, and gain the knowledge necessary to reach specific learning targets.  
    To design their individual lessons, units, and year-long plans, art teachers utilize a myriad of resources, such as these listed below:
    • CA Visual Arts Standards and Framework
    • Various published art curricula
    • Content from art courses
    • Art education workshops and conferences
    • Professional texts related to art education
    • Collaboration and sharing best practices with members of the Art Department
    • District-provided professional development
    • Visits to museum exhibitions and their education departments
    To see an overview of the MVSD Art curriculum maps, which is articulated by grade level, visit the Art Department page on the district website at mvschools.org.
    Q7:  How do Kiddo-funded program teachers communicate with parents, similar to regular classroom teachers?
    A:  Kiddo!-funded teachers communicate about their programs in different ways. One way they communicate about what’s going on in the art program is through display walls. A good example of this is the beautiful art displayed on the walls of the middle school. Typically, the art displayed is accompanied by information, such as the type of art media the students are using, the artists being studied, and the skills and processes the students are working on during the project. This is one of the ways that Kiddo!-funded teachers, particularly art teachers, communicate about what the students are working on.
    Other Kiddo!-funded teachers communicate through school wide newsletters. For example, the Old Mill newsletter periodically highlights different Kiddo!-funded programs as a way to share with families about the exciting things happening in music, PE, art and the library. Kiddo!-funded teachers also communicate to parents by providing scheduled class observations, music concerts, and drama performances. 
    As with all teachers in the district, Kiddo!-funded teachers have websites that parents can visit and find out information about what the students are studying in their classes. Plus, teachers are accessible for meetings with parents in person and can be contacted via email for specific questions about their programs. We encourage our teachers to communicate with our families in varied ways.
    Q8:  Do any donated Kiddo! funds go to the teacher’s union, from an oversight and monitoring perspective?
    A:  Money donated to Kiddo! does not go to the teacher's union. It funds teachers’ salaries along with health and welfare benefits, but it does not contribute towards teacher's union dues. The Mill Valley Teachers Association serves as the teacher's union, and all union dues come directly from teachers. 87% of the district budget pays for staff salaries and benefits, and like Kiddo!, it does not pay for teacher's dues to their union.
    Q9:  Do we have curriculum for all Kiddo!-funded programs? How is this developed?
    A:  We have a curriculum in place for all Kiddo!-funded programs. These are based upon the state standards for each specific content area. The standards indicate the skills, concepts and key understandings students should know at each grade level. Teachers integrate a variety of instructional materials and resources to build curricular programs which align to the standards. In many instances, teachers utilize published materials as part of their programs. This is the case with the elementary PE team, which uses two different curricular materials the district has purchased for them. These teachers pull lessons from these programs along with activities learned from other resources to create a dynamic, engaging program that gets students moving and addresses the PE standards. 
    As far as developing the art curriculum, art teachers curate curricular materials from a variety of sources. These programs are continually being refined as art teachers explore different resources and integrate new approaches, strategies, and content. The teachers often collectively work together in this iterative process to develop their program. This curated approach allows teachers to incorporate the best ideas from different curricula to create a one-of-a-kind, top-quality art program for the students in Mill Valley.
    Mill Valley is a unique place for teachers to teach because they are given a great deal of flexibility in how they teach and the resources they use to do so. We do not require teachers to use a set textbook or set curriculum. We give them the academic freedom to create their own lessons and units rather than teach out of a specific textbook. Teachers are encouraged to explore different ideas and try out innovative, new instructional approaches. With this flexibility comes high expectations that teachers will develop well-designed curriculum and provide students with engaging lessons. 
    Q10:  Will foreign language be added to the Strategic Plan and LCAP?
    A:  Exploring foreign language at the elementary schools is part of the district’s Strategic Plan. One of our goals for this year is to assemble a committee that investigates bringing foreign language into the school day at the elementary sites. A result of this committee’s work may be to recommend that foreign language becomes an embedded part of the school day rather than being offered as enrichment before or after school.  
    The Strategic Plan drives the initiatives in the school district. Our Administrative Council has selected two overarching goals from the Strategic Plan to be placed in the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), which is the state-mandated Local Control and Accountability Plan. The LCAP is intentionally more limited in scope than the Strategic Plan, and as a result, it does not make reference to our initiatives related to foreign language. 
    Q11:  How does Kiddo! choose which programs to fund?
    A:  The school district makes the request to Kiddo! about which programs to fund. Here’s an example of how this has worked in the recent past. A few years ago, there was in an increase in the number of students enrolling in the district. With this growth, there was a need to expand the programs funded by Kiddo!. As a result, the district hired a part-time music teacher. This person turned out to be a phenomenal teacher. In response to increased enrollment and knowing that this teacher was going to be snatched up by another district for a full-time position, the Superintendent made a request to Kiddo! to find funds to hire this teacher full-time. Kiddo! assessed the situation and approved to bring in the funds to invest in a great music teacher. That’s just an example of the school district leading the ask by Kiddo!. 
    Another example of this happened in the year 2002, when there was one million dollars in budget cuts from the state in the middle of the school year. The district had already hired teachers for various programs, but with the huge state funding cuts, these were going to be drastically reduced or eliminated. With this dire situation, the district came to Kiddo! for help. At this request, Kiddo! stepped up and began bringing in the funding to save these programs. 
    The school district is in the people business. 87% of the district’s budget is used to pay for people. We invest a tremendous amount of resources in supporting our teachers, our principals and staff, making sure they have the time to plan, collaborate, and have the professional development they need to excel in teaching their subject matter. We invest in our teachers to ensure that they have the most effective instructional strategies and resources to bring into their classrooms every day. Prioritizing our people is a way for us to ensure that we have quality programs in all content areas across the schools.
    Q12:  Do you get feedback from high schools and colleges on the success of Kiddo! alumni?
    A:  Kiddo! regularly receives letters from alumni. In fact, Kiddo! has launched a legacy newsletter that is sent out to their alumni every year. It showcases high school and college students as well as professionals who write incredible letters about how their experiences with singing and playing music, public speaking, performing arts, poetry, and art have made them into who they are today. You never know what’s going to touch a kid, what program or what experience, but the fact that kids write back to share this message tells us that our programs are making a long-lasting impact on students. 
    Q13:  Was there ever a year Kiddo! did not meet its goal? If so, which programs were cut first?
    A:  Thanks to our very supportive community, Kiddo! has met its financial goal every year.
    Q14:  Why does Kiddo! fund chorus, orchestra, and band, which don’t serve all kids in grades K-5? 
    A:  Every child in grade K through 5th grade has general music class every week. Starting in 3rd grade, students can also join the chorus. Starting in 4th grade, students can also learn to play an instrument as part of the orchestra. Starting in 5th grade, students can choose to participate in band. In middle school, students have to make some choices about music and art, but they are both offered as options in the middle school program. Middle school students are able to tap into their different talents and decide on a preference for expressing themselves either musically or through the visual arts. 
    Q15:  If other subject areas have state assessments, how are students assessed in Kiddo!-funded programs?
    A:  The Smarter Balanced Assessment is a standardized state test that our 3rd through 8th graders take each spring. It assesses students’ understanding of the Common Core State Standards in Math and Language Arts. While it provides some general feedback about our instruction and information about our students’ skills and applied knowledge in those content areas, it is just a snapshot of this understanding in a particular testing format. It does not assess what their learning looks like on a daily basis in the classroom.
    For more authentic assessments of what our students know and are able to do, we rely on their classwork, assessments such as tests and quizzes completed in the classroom, portfolios, as well as performances. This provides teachers with relevant and timely information about students’ progress towards the learning goals they are trying to achieve. These types of assessments are widely used throughout all subject areas, including those which are funded by Kiddo!. 
    Q16:  How can funders (parents) impact the programs’ priorities funded by them?
    A:  Parents can impact what programs get prioritized by completing the surveys that are sent out and by providing feedback through the various channels discussed above. The district gathers as much information as possible, including feedback from parents, to make well-informed decisions about our instructional programs, including what should be prioritized with Kiddo! funding.