A Message from the Principal

by Lucia Sullivan on 06/02/2020

Dear Canyon Community,
Please read to the bottom even if you skim through sections. Thank you!

The State of the World
Let me start by saying that race matters.  I am profoundly saddened by the police brutality that killed George Floyd.  This along with the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others, on top of the racial disparities evident in the COVID-19 crisis, and now the economic crisis that has further widened inequalities…  I am stunned by the breathtaking actions of casual white supremacy we are now seeing on a regular basis, like Amy Cooper calling the police on a bird watcher who asked her to leash her dog in a bird-watching area.

The legitimate protests across our region and the country call for a commitment by our school districts and our communities that we will continue to advance our efforts to dismantle a culture of systemic racism and white supremacy, bring meaningful cultural understanding and respect for diversity, including most importantly racial diversity, into each of our classrooms.

Race does matter; this message must not only be included in lessons, but in the forefront of all educational decision making.  Further, we must challenge ourselves to hold courageous conversations about race amongst each other and with the children we care for, the children who will soon be empowered as our next generation of leaders and innovators.

Now is the opportunity to collectively educate and support students in reaching their highest potential to be culturally competent, embrace and value diversity, and demonstrate respect, support and appreciation of all differences in and beyond our classrooms and communities.  As Beverly Daniel Tatum suggests, “Silence will not protect you or them. Avoiding the topic is not a solution.”

Below are a number of resources we encourage you to review for conversations with your families. Below the links I will post an email from Jamie Barrett Riley, Canyon Alum and soon-to-be Canyon school parent.  She is a preschool teacher; her resources are targeted to young children.

How to talk to your children about protests and racism – By Sandee LaMotte, CNN National Museum of African American History and Culture – Talking About Race’Raising White Kids’ Author On How White Parents Can Talk About Race Heard – NPR’s All Things ConsideredResources for Engaging in Anti-Racism WorkAn Antiracist Reading List – Ibram X. Kendi on books to help America transcend its racist heritage

From Jamie:
As an early childhood educator and a parent, I’ve been thinking a lot the past few days about resources for parents of very young children (and other adults with young children in their lives) who may be struggling to envision how to talk with young kids about race and social justice. To that end, here are some pieces that I find useful and informative.  (Please know, this barely scratches the surface — there is a LOT of material out there, and a great many people doing powerful work on these important topics. I encourage you to explore on your own.)

If you’re looking for a starting point, maybe you will find one here:
A very helpful article from a clinical psychologist with specific language suggestions for talking with children about racism, police brutality and protests. (I suggest reading both the Toddler and Preschool sections — don’t worry, they are short!)

Kindergartners narrate the book I wish I had read at this morning’s Zoom preschool circle: “I Walk With Vanessa”
Book lists and resources from activist & community organizer Rebekah Gienapp: 5 myths white parents must let go of
15 books to help kids understand that Black Lives Matter
Growing Kid Activists 101: 19 ways parents & educators can introduce children to social justice
Another resource from EmbraceRace: 7 Ways to Highlight Resistance Efforts When Discussing Oppression with Children
10 tips for teaching and talking with kids about race
Something Happened in Our Town, written by three child psychologists, is a picture book about the police shooting of a Black man. The authors led a webinar for EmbraceRace on talking to young children about racial injustice.
Social Justice resources from the Children’s Community School: “They’re Not Too Young to Talk About Race”
What Do We Do All Day:Children’s books about protests and civil disobedience
Books about global social justice
#OwnVoices Picture books by Black authors
Picture Books that Nurture Empathy
Picture Books that Nurture Kindness
Talking to Children About Racial Bias from the American Academy of Pediatrics

Edmentum Assessments
I know the K12 kids are confused! We did explain this to them in March, but of course they do not remember.  The 345 kids are familiar with this tool, but haven’t done them at home…

This is a “responsive” assessment.  It is targeted to grade level standards and sub-strands.  When kids answer wrong it gets easier and easier in order to find what the child knows solidly.  When kids get several answers in a row correct, it gets harder and harder to identify their proficiency level (which may be several years ahead of their current grade)– It will also try new standards at the harder level.  It will get harder until it reaches a ceiling. When it gets “too hard”, kids should just guess (which I assume means that they will answer wrong and then it will reset to their actual performance level).
Kids need to understand that this assessment is just noodling around to see what they do and do not yet know.  Remind them if the questions seem hard that they must be getting questions that are many grades ahead.  You do NOT need to explain questions or help.  Just guess and move on.

This is not a state test.  We use this to gather data to help inform our planning and teaching. These assessments are not used to “judge” the kids– this online tool will identify strengths and weaknesses and target interventions to any instructional gaps.  It also gives teachers valuable information about what kids have already mastered and what they still need to be taught.  For us, it gives us a snapshot of things the kids knew in June 2020.

If your child does not complete the assessment that is okay.  It just means we don’t get any data on your child’s performance.  Having the data allows us to measure the impacts of this unanticipated school closure and better plan for next year.  The assessments Judy typically does are 1:1 and face to face and thus not possible this spring.

The Edmentum assessments are usually around 37-45 questions and often take about an hour per section (but can take longer depending on the child’s tenacity and patience). Many kids race through quickly.  That does not typically yield as helpful data.  They can do it in chunks.  It is not intended to torture anyone.  If your child is getting hard questions it is important for you to let them know they are doing work way above grade level.  You can say something like, “Whoa that’s a crazy high school level question! Give it a shot, but don’t stress. You are not in highschool yet!” They can try to work out the hard problems or they can just guess.  But PLEASE, do not help them.  We know you have all mastered elementary school.  If your child can not handle this assessment this June, so be it.  To be honest, the teachers did not want to give it either– but I would really like some data points so I have some idea on a macro level of what the kids know and are able to do at the end of this year.  On a micro level it can help us identify kids who may be in need of additional support next fall or who need to be given more challenging options.

Tonight’s Town Hall
I really hope to see many of you tonight so I can share with you what I currently know about the path to reopening schools in the fall.  Let me be clear: YOU WILL NOT LEAVE THIS ZOOM WITH MUCH CLEAR INFORMATION ABOUT THE FALL.  You will understand many of the variables and the pathways toward decisions.  You will understand opportunities for you to be involved in the process. You will leave with a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities that we face as a school community.  You will be able to ask questions in an open dialogue after the presentation.  I will attempt to record and share the meeting for those of you who will be giving baths and rocking babies and can not make it.  You are also welcome to mute, turn off video and just have it on in the background like the radio…

Please know that in a time of such grief and despair, I take great comfort in knowing that you and your children are out there making your small corners of the world a more safe, healthy, peaceful and “just” place.