A Walk In the PARCC

by | Jan 26, 2015

The-Terminator-terminator-24509187-1920-1080The issue of standardized tests being used as a high school graduation requirement continues. For a brief moment, it appeared as though, it was put on hold after a few resounding House and Senate votes but, like the Terminator, it’s back.

How we educate young learners should be a top priority. Giving kids skills to compete in the world is important for their future. Because of this, parents strongly advocate for the best education possible. This is normal. Unfortunately, there is more to the story.

Ever since “No Child Left Behind,” tests, school rankings and mandates have increasingly been woven into our nation’s educational system. It has now reached a point where failing schools get sanctioned. In addition, teachers get warned and students performing poorly on standardized tests are threatened with not graduating.

The fad of the moment is known as the Common Core. This ‘reform’ measure has certainly become a hot topic over the last few years. While districts rush to comply with numerous edicts, the Common Core has now infiltrated how children in kindergarten are taught. Maria Montessori would not approve. Seems like child development has been set aside for a spell.

If all of that were not enough, testing companies, some politicians and education leaders have tried convincing us that it was necessary to become more accountable through reform measures. In Rhode Island, we began to “Race to the Top.” Many drank the Kool-Aid without checking the ingredients.

When I was in grade school it was the Russians. In the ensuing years, Japan, China and now Finland became the educational paragons. Somehow the United States fails to measure up. Statistics are cherry-picked by reform advocates to substantiate why these nations have gotten it right. What follows is an all too common prescription: more testing, placing blame on teachers and rigidly reducing instruction at the expense of civics, the arts, home economics, etc.

Eventually all of this trickles down to the local level. East Greenwich has long been a community that takes pride in its school system. We test fairly well, graduate the vast majority of students and have a small dropout rate. On top of this, many local students go to colleges with outstanding reputations. While much of these measures can be lauded, it is imperative that a few additional considerations be factored in.

I fear that we are creating a rat race for many of our children. In recent weeks, we have heard much about all day kindergarten, the PARCC test and Cole Middle School’s math department. Much of the discussion centers on “keeping up with the Joneses.” Also, some of the discussion is centered on blaming teachers, maintaining our reputation and fear over the impact test scores have on the real estate market.

Very little has been said about child development. Very little has been said about the wonderful things happening in the schools that go unmeasured. Very little has been said, or discussed, about kids developing those skills that promote critical thinking, civic involvement and social interaction. Kids are more than scores.

Do we really want full day kindergarten if it becomes more academic? Some children might be ready for this, others will not. Do we really want to negatively impact English language learners, students with special needs and those from poorer neighborhoods on their way to a diploma? It appears as though “Racing” has morphed into rushing. Because of this, significant stress has been added to the educational experience of young learners. In some ways this becomes both an educational concern and one of social justice as well.

Seeking opportunities to make our schools better is essential. In fact, standardized tests could tell us much about how kids learn, along with which teaching methods are most effective. Unfortunately, all of our racing has led to gotcha’s, have to’s and better than’s. This promotes those who win, as well as those who lose. I thought this was about nobody being left behind.

Bob Houghtaling is the director of the East Greenwich Drug Program. He also served on the Exeter-West Greenwich School Committee, taught at Providence College Graduate School of Education and was a consultant at the Rhode Island Training School.

 

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21 Comments

  1. Heather Larkin

    As always, Bob you hit the nail on the head. The truth is, most of our kids will be ok in the end. Even if they don’t get algebra in 6th grade or a full day of Kindergarten or they’re too hot on some days in school. I think many parents think this kind of pushing for more or complaining about every imperfection makes them ‘good’ parents. We should let the professionals in the district do their jobs and support them by trusting that their goal is to do what is best for students.

    Reply
    • parent

      @Heather, I wish PTG chairperson would understand the parents and students.

      Reply
      • Heather Larkin

        I would love to talk to you about it but I have no idea who you are. 🙂

        Reply
        • Cheri Moss

          Excellent article, Bob and great points, Heather Larkin!

          I applaud the administrators and teachers at EG Schools and trust them to continue to do their best for all of our students. My kids have been attending EG Schools since 2000 and our experience on every level has been a positive one. EGSD has come a long way since 2000 and the schools, teachers and administrators continue to amaze, improve, educate and work toward making this district the absolute best it can be! Discussion from the community is important but I am wondering why it is not required by EG News for those posting comments to post their name? It certainly would give the comment a lot more credibility and discourage the nastiness and negativity that tends to creep into these valuable, insightful discussions. Elizabeth?

          Reply
          • Elizabeth McNamara

            Cheri, there has been lots of discussion on websites in general over anonymous comments. Are people more honest when they don’t have to use their name – so you actually hear what people are thinking? Is it an easy way for people to take cheap shots? I think both can be true. At this point, I’m interested in fostering the conversation and I’m willing to accept anonymous comments. Partly that’s because it can be difficult to police – people can and do create single-use email addresses. That said, I appreciate your frustration and the policy is not fixed in stone. I will talk to some other publishers about how they handle it. Thanks for commenting.

      • Heather Larkin

        All are welcome at any of the six PTG meetings held at the schools each month. Most schools offer evening meetings for parents who can’t make it in the morning. Parents have an opportunity to bring up concerns with the group and have open discussions. It can be beneficial for all of us to hear from those outside of our regular circle who may have a different perspective.
        PTG meetings are also a great time to hear from your building administrator about what they are doing behind the scenes.

        Reply
  2. Tricia Colgan

    As a PTG President and an EG parent who has educated two children in the EG School District and has a successful college student, I would love to speak with any parent, anonymous or not, regarding an EG education. No place is perfect, public or private, but after thirteen years in EG schools, I find EG students are well prepared for college and have had support from a hard-working, dedicated staff, faculty, and administrators at all levels. Let’s have some positive discussion on the successes of our schools and the children that attend them!!

    Reply
  3. Parent

    GOOD parents will always be involved in their children’s lives. And if there is something happening in their education, we will address it and work to make changes. It’s what the democratic system is all about. This is a very caring, involved and progressive community that I am proud to be a part of .

    Reply
  4. parent

    Students and their schools both rely on parents to help them be their best. Students need someone to advocate for them at school. In these days, East Greenwich schools cannot provide everything students need without help from parents. This district lacks of the vision, motivation to educate, transparency and fairness.

    Reply
    • Heather Larkin

      I don’t know who you are because you won’t say your name but if you feel the district has “no vision, motivation to educate, transparency or fairness” I’m thinking your family is having a specific (bad) experience that is tainting your opinion. No district is perfect but those are harsh opinions that aren’t shared by the majority.

      Reply
  5. parent

    I have a different opinion Heather. The election result is a reflection of parents’ frustration on lack of vision and transparency.

    Reply
    • Cheri Moss

      Are uppercase “Parent” and lowercase “parent” the same person? Just wondering…
      Lowercase “parent”, could you be a little more specific about “lack of vision” and “transparency?” What exactly are you referring to?

      Reply
  6. Cheri Moss

    “Case sensitive Parent/parent,” please do not deflect with irrelevant distractions. You still have not answered my question. I have asked you to offer specifics when you say “the district has no vision, motivation to educate, transparency or fairness”. Spewing blanket, untrue statements – anonymously – casts unwarranted, undeserved negatives on an outstanding school district, teams of educators and administrators. My children have been through every level of education in this school district with great success and invaluable learning experiences. EG students ultimately attend excellent colleges and universities, including Ivy League, and the rigor of the EG programs more than prepare them for the challenges of college. There is always room for improvement and there are always issues, but let’s all work together – parents and administrators – in a positive way. The unsubstantiated negativity and divisiveness is getting old.

    Reply
    • I live in East Greenwich

      Can you please share the data that supports the statement “the rigor of the EG programs more than prepare them for the challenges of college”?

      Reply
    • Heather Larkin

      I think the P/parents are confused. They night mean the SC is not transparent and lacks vision, not administrators and teachers. It’s hard to tell when no one can answer a question, only throw grenades. Cheri, I couldn’t agree more about the divisiveness and negativity!

      Reply
      • I live in East Greenwich

        I have been hearing the similar complaints from more than 50 parents. Maybe PTG should work with SC to organize a public discussion forum.

        Reply
  7. Sally Miranda

    Bob, thank you for your ongoing commitment and accessibility to the students of East Greenwich, and your understanding of what it takes to support both their academic and social development. I have had the opportunity to volunteer in EG schools for many years and you are correct when you say there are many “wonderful things” happening in the schools. These “unmeasured activities” are created by dedicated and knowledgeable staff, faculty and administrators. While no system is perfect, EGSD continually shows its commitment to academic excellence, and has proven that it will make changes/improvements as deemed necessary. For anyone who is disgruntled or concerned w/what is taking place in the schools, feel free to attend a PTG meeting (offered monthly alternating between day and evening) where you will have the opportunity to discuss your concerns w/the school administrator and brainstorm on making improvements. In this process you will find transparency, motivation and vision for both the schools and the district.

    Reply
  8. eg parent

    I am deeply concerned about PTG chair’s comments on full-day kindergarten, algebra and air conditioning at Cole…

    Reply
    • Heather Larkin

      You can contact me or any of the other PTG Presidents at any time. Our e-mail addresses and phone numbers are found on the school web page. Or at a monthly meeting. Speaking for myself, I am happy to discuss any concerns you have with my personal opinion as long as I know who I’m speaking with.

      Reply

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