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TJ parents form new school advocacy group

In response to a perceived lack of communication from Federal Way Public Schools, a group of parents at Thomas Jefferson High School announced the formation of what they call the School and Family Collaboration Committee (SFCC).

The group is aimed at increasing transparent communication with the school district, according to local resident Michael Scuderi. The group will also address concerns about the implementation of the accelerated academics policy at TJ.

Scuderi said the SFCC is not affiliated with the Raider Parent Movement (RPM) at this time.

The RPM has been the established parent group at TJ for some time and even has a non-profit 501 c-3 status. The two advocacy groups were exploring whether the SFCC could be a sub-committee of the RPM. Scuderi said the new group is not intended to be a PTA.

Signs of success for academic policy

During the Aug. 23 Federal Way School Board meeting, Scuderi outlined what the formation of this new group means for parents and students at TJ, and how they hope to be a facilitator between families and the district.

“As you see from the chronology, this has been a continuous effort to voice our concerns about the way the Accelerated Academics policy has been implemented, and the Middle Years Program has been implemented, at TJ,” he said, referencing a PowerPoint presentation at the public comment period. “We’ve decided to form our own committee, to be organized, and to present you with some solutions, since the administration doesn’t seem to be listening.”

Scuderi said the SFCC’s charter is to “establish and create a common voice for the community focused on advocacy for students at Thomas Jefferson High School,” and also to help ensure “transparency of communication.”

According to the school district, accelerated academics is showing signs of success. Initial data is showing four improvements so far in Federal Way schools, according to an Aug. 23 news release:

• A greater percentage of students are taking advanced academic classes.

• A greater percentage of students are passing the courses.

• A greater percentage of students taking the after-course exams.

• A greater percentage are passing the after-course exams.

The district touts the accelerated academics policy as a success, indicating that “first-year results have confirmed that Federal Way Public Schools’ Academic Acceleration policy has increased all students’ access to advanced courses and that these students are bucking the stereotypes — by showing they are willing and capable of success in these highly rigorous courses.”

The school district indicates it plans to increase course offerings for students, teacher training and support, and foster better communication with families, “with the goal of even better results next year.”

Goals

The SFCC intends to review district policy and evaluate TJ’s implementation of the policy, Scuderi said. The group hopes to “provide constructive feedback regarding implementation to the school board and TJ community.”

The SFCC is open to current and former students and parents at TJ. The SFCC will focus on the “opt out” mechanism for TJ students who are enrolled in accelerated academics classes, and also the ongoing implementation of the International Baccalaureate’s (IB) Middle Years Program, a program for grades 6-10, aimed at preparing students for the difficult IB classes and exams offered to juniors and seniors.

While the issues surrounding the accelerated academics and MYP programs at TJ have been divisive, Scuderi re-iterated that the SFCC intends to be a partner and facilitator for parents and district officials.

“We seek to have a partnership with all of you. We have been trying to do that. We have not been getting that co-operation. We require accountability for the board and superintendent, we require transparency and communication from the district,” he said. “The time is now, to make changes, so all really means all. We ask you to listen to us.”

 

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