HCPSS Policy Committees

by Erica Qin

The Howard County Public School System is regulated by numerous policies created and reviewed by the Board of Education. Every six years, these policies are reviewed by a committee formed of parents, teachers, and community members. This past school year, CAPA was invited to send representatives to review the following three policy committees: Policy 8000, which deals with the management of curriculum; Policy 8040, regarding the selection of instructional materials, and Policy 9030, which oversees school-sponsored publications and productions. These review committees allow for HCPSS policies to remain updated to the current school environment with input from a number of diverse perspectives.

Policy 8000, adopted in 2004, “provide(s) a process to manage the curriculum by establishing the structure for curriculum design and implementation and a systematic basis for decision-making and standardized practice,” according to the official HCPSS Policies website.

 At the most recent review committee of this policy, a few major changes were made. One such change was for the inclusion of “diverse perspectives, including those of historically marginalized people,” CAPA representative Yu Chen says. These changes are meant to reflect Policy 1080, which ensures equity by establishing expectations to identify and eliminate unequal opportunities for education. In the future, these additions will allow Howard County schools to continue progressing towards a more diverse school environment.

These review committees are important so that HCPSS policies can reflect the changing needs and views of Howard County residents. Chen hopes for Policy 8000 to follow the current environment. As Howard County continues to grow and change, its schools will develop as well. It is the job of CAPA representatives such as Yu Chen to ensure that the policies grow alongside the students.

 Another policy with potential for change is Policy 8040. On the Board of Education website, Policy 8040 is said to “establish procedures for the evaluation, selection, and review of instructional materials for use in Howard County Public Schools.” Adopted in 1975, it explains the process of selecting paper, visual, and software materials for classrooms, ensuring consistency between the policy and implementation practices.

Policy 8040 “leaves the power to the curriculum committees, who come up with a material list and selection criteria for the schools and teachers,” says CAPA representative Dr. Feng Ouyang. The policy creates guidelines on material selection, but ultimately, the committees established by the school system hold the authority of selection. In order to ensure the public’s voice is heard in this process, an instructional review committee meets annually to review objections and concerns from Howard County citizens. These results, along with the criteria, are reported to the Board each year for approval.

Although there were no substantial modifications resulting from the most recent review of this policy according to Dr. Ouyang, the policy still has room for improvement. In the future, Dr. Ouyang hopes for the selection process to become more transparent and inclusive. “Parents and the community should have more opportunities to get involved in the process,” he says. Currently, the curriculum committees do consist of community representatives. However, they are selected through a closed process, which the Board of Education does not have jurisdiction over. In order to increase the transparency of this process, the policy review committee must agree and vote on any proposed changes; this time, no significant modifications were made, and the status quo was maintained. As such, Dr. Ouyang hopes that with enough push from the Board of Education, an increase in transparency can be implemented in the future.

Finally, Policy 9030 creates instructions on publications and productions that are sponsored by the school. This policy ensures that these school sponsored publications and productions (including plays, articles, videos, etc.) do not contain defamatory language, unwarranted invasions of privacy, or inciting of prohibited activities.

This policy was implemented partly “for the students, [so] they can see how they can participate in media and what resources are available to them,” says committee member Jenny Wang. Because Policy 9030 deals with the freedom of speech and press established in the Bill of Rights, the policy references previous court cases that place guidelines on First Amendment rights. These cases, such as Tinker v. Des Moines (1969) and Hazelwood School Dist. v. Kuhlmeier (1988), deal with the type of speech permitted in school buildings.

In review committees, representatives from diverse backgrounds come together to bounce their opinions back and forth. Often, these opinions can lead to important policy changes made for the betterment of Howard County schools. CAPA representatives play an important role in this process, allowing for the voices of the Chinese American population in Howard County to be heard. As students and schools continue to grow and change, these review committees will continue their work in modifying and improving HCPSS policies.