On Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, Stonington Public School officals, parents and students gathered at Stonington High School to discuss the looping programs at Mystic Middle and Pawcatuck Middle Schools. Speaker after speaker talked about the benefits of the programs.
Below is a statement the Stonington Board of Education issued in response to the public forum.
Dear Stonington Public Schools Community,
It is not so typical for some 100 parents and students to fill a meeting space and eagerly speak with passion and conviction in support of a program. This is exactly what occurred Wednesday evening at Stonington High School, however, as students and parents articulated support for the looping and multi-age programs at both Mystic and Pawcatuck middle schools, saying the programs instill both a love of learning, along with a myriad of academic and life skills.
These thoughtful and heartfelt comments provide much information for school administrators and the Board of Education.
The information gathering session on Wednesday did highlight an issue that needs to be immediately addressed. That is: The session was intended to be one part of an information-gathering process and not, as it was incorrectly translated, a meeting about eliminating these programs. In fact, the Board of Education has never discussed that possibility.
Here are the facts:
Stonington Public Schools, along with districts throughout Connecticut, is preparing for soon-to-be implemented required standards aimed at ensuring all public school students have the opportunity for inspiring, challenging and relevant learning.
These standards, called the Common Core State Standards, have necessitated study of current curriculum and instruction. The goal, at the end of the study and information-gathering process, is not only to align to the Common Core, but also to work to ensure that this inspiring, challenging and relevant learning all children deserve, exists in all classrooms.
Looping and multi-age programs – Crickets, May-Junes, Pfish and Otters – are among the programs being studied and an emphasis within the state standards on distinct grade-by-grade instruction is causing some added level of attention to be directed at these programs. As part of this study and in recognition of the integral role parents play in the education of their children, parents were invited to offer thoughts about these programs at Wednesday’s forum.
Included in an invitation to parents, was a sentence that may have helped fuel the inaccurate assumption that administrators and the Board are moving to eliminate these programs: “… we are examining our current multiage looping programs at the middle level to determine if these programs can continue to effectively support student achievement given the required changes …”
It could be argued that this sentence might have been worded differently. It could also be argued that perhaps some stopped reading the message after the word “continue.” It could also be argued that emotions might have been unduly inflamed by imprecise, even inaccurate postings that followed on social media and news websites.
Finally, it could also be argued that all of that is irrelevant at this point. A more productive discussion is how the work of curriculum alignment to the Common Core continues at the same time as district administrators and the Board work to ensure all students have the opportunity at every step of their progression through the Stonington Public Schools and in every classroom in which they find themselves, to be inspired to achieve their utmost personal bests.
The Board promises the students and families of the Stonington Public Schools that it is this desire that will inform its discussions about all programs, including discussion of how looping and multi-age programs might be adapted to better support success of all students.
This is not a promise to hold onto the status quo. Indeed, as is evident by Wednesday’s session, which seemed to indicate that not every student in every Stonington classroom is as excited and challenged as possible, some change is necessary.
The Stonington Board of Education
Gail B. MacDonald – Chairwoman
Faith Leitner – Secretary