Sunday, January 12, 2014

Guest post: Don't Fail This Quiz

This is a guest post from Deborah Myerson, who has two sons at Fairview and is co-president of the Fairview PTO.

Don’t Fail This Quiz

This is about education, so first, a quiz:

If you were a supporter of public education, which would you do?
a)      Devise a secret plan in the middle of the school year to eliminate current classrooms and turn the school upside down.
b)      Inform teachers about this new plan the night before its rollout and order them to implement it.
c)       Send students home crying and confused.
d)      Let children tell their parents what happened when they get home from school, with a vague letter home to provide minimal additional information.
e)      Consult teachers, engage students, involve parents, and work collaboratively to develop a plan that leverages the many strengths of the school to address important educational needs.

Quiz will be returned at the end of class.

Artisticat at Fairview Elementary School

Fairview families are concerned and upset about a radical restructuring that the new interim principal is implementing at our school.  The graded classrooms and teachers that students have enjoyed since August have been eliminated, and--based on a single test score--children have been re-sorted , classified, and segregated into new classrooms.

Teachers first learned about this radical change in classrooms on Thursday, Jan. 8. Children found out about it at 3:15 on Friday, when they vacated their old classrooms and moved to new classrooms with new teachers. Parents were the last to find out. Many children came home distraught, not really knowing what was going on. A vague, impersonal letter home did not really explain much and gave no indications about who the child’s new teacher would be.

There are two serious problems right now:
  • First, a regular pattern of secretive actions follow by top-down communication where parental involvement is merely an afterthought.
  • Second, this radical restructuring of classrooms effectively segregates students by a test score, without regard to existing friendships or relationships with classroom teachers from the first half of the school year.

As a parent, I know that I was upset that my six-year-old was my first source to learn of this midyear, comprehensive change in school structure.  And my 11-year-old with communication delays couldn't really explain what had happened at school, except that he had a new teacher. When I opened their backpacks and found the letter home, it was too vague to be informative. It did not even contain the names of their new teachers.

Our children are not the sum of their test scores, nor are they guinea pigs. Yes, there are important educational needs for kids at our school, and we need to find a way to address them. We can engage our children as the learners that they are, with educationally sound and developmentally appropriate practices. But to make effective change, administrators need to work collaboratively with parents and teachers. That’s just not happening right now. 

Instead, there has been a complete disregard for Fairview families. Frankly, this abrupt midyear change in direction for students and teachers, coupled with the poor administrative communication, is highly disrespectful of the Fairview community.

There are many strengths at Fairview, as well as the challenges. Teachers across the school are excellent, motivated, and caring. The new building, opened in 2011, is state of the art. The fabulous Strings Academy, in partnership with IU, introduces first and second graders to the violin, while the CODA program allows students to continue the violin or take lessons in other instruments.

The Artful Learning program—that enhances learning by presenting curriculum in highly engaging ways, integrating visual, audio, and kinesthetic learning styles--now in its third year, and has been a wonderful addition to the school. Because of Artful Learning, families from across MCCSC have enrolled their children through Fairview’s open enrollment. And since it has been implemented, there has been notable growth in student performance. Yet, though the letter home claimed that Fairview would still be “an Artful Learning school,” it’s really not clear how that will really happen under these overhauled classrooms.

Ever since Tommy Richardson’s departure over a month ago, parents have been asking interim Principal Miller and Superintendent Judith Demuth for a community meeting to discuss Fairview’s future, requests that have met minimal or no response.
We have a regular PTO meeting scheduled for Monday night at 6:30 pm, with child care. We expect it can provide an opportunity for a forum for discussion. We certainly hope that as many parents and teachers as possible will be able to attend.

If MCCSC wants parents to support public schools – and the next referendum to fund public school programs – this administration needs to genuinely collaborate with families, value their input, and act on it. Otherwise, you will have even more parents fleeing to the next available charter school. And who knows what happens at the next referendum?

Quiz answer: E. Consult teachers, engage students, involve parents, and work collaboratively to develop a plan that leverages the many strengths of the school to address important educational needs.

Otherwise, you failed.




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