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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Let's work together

Question: I was just wondering if there is anyone out there who has anything positive to say about the great things that happen at The Learning Community (formally the primary school). I don't know if any other people outside of the school system have any idea about what it takes to teach young children. I know that the fourth grade is now doing a new program (Harcourt) and it is only the second year. With that program in place, there will certainly need to be changes in ELA K-5. These things take time and discussion, and it has to be decided if that program is really good for children.

I just wonder if any of these people challenging the curriculum at TLC have any clue about children's developmental readiness as they grow and learn. Just as children learn to walk at different times (not all at 10 months) they also master different academic skills at different rates. The TLC program has always catered to those specific needs of the children in our district. As a parent of two children currently in the elementary system at B-P, I am proud of the instruction my children are getting at TLC. The teachers there work hard to keep the curriuculum challenging and rewarding for all children at all their varied develpmental stages. Education should not be a cookie-cutter system, as it seems we are trying to create with this Harcourt program. That does not mean we shouldn't challenge the children, but we do need to consider that even in fourth grade they are not all developmentally at the same level.

I guess with all that said, my question is, to staff and parents, do you think it is time we work together to continue to build upon our current curriculum, or would it be more beneficial to just point fingers at others and create animosity between parents, teachers and the two elementary buildings? It takes a village!!

Answer: Ditto.
- answered by Stephen Tomlinson, District Superintendent


  1. Agreed, in part.

    I don't think criticizing things that need improvement must create animosity. You are correct that people learn at different paces - we shouldn't have a cookie cutter curriculum. Kids who learn faster shouldn't be forced to slow down to accommodate those who learn more slowly.

    Is there any way to criticize things which fail to meet expectations without being called a 'finger-pointer'?

    Of course we all want our kids to get the best education possible. Obviously, we need to work together to make this happen. To be a properly "responsive" classroom the school should consider the feedback of parents (who know their kids best) and put it to good use instead of complaining that they're under-appreciated.

    I don't need to be a teacher to know when something isn't working.

    We pay you. You provide the service. Let's work together starting with that in mind.

  2. Well..saying that something fails to meet expectations and saying that it is a weakness in the K-2 building IS pointing fingers. Criticizm is fine if it is constructive. Saying that the Primary school is "failing to meet expectations" seems a bit ridiculous. There are pretty high standards and expectations in K-2. Have you seen what they learn in Kindergarten these days. I have a child in Kindergarten, I see what they do everyday. Again, I am not saying that the two buildings should not work together to help possibly ease the transitions from grade to grade or that the curriculum should not be updated with the timmes, my point is that the blame game gets us nowhere. It is my understanding that district wide they are working on reviewing the curriculum to ensure that they are meeting the NYS standards and expectations K-12. That will certainly help to fill any gaps that may exist. I do agree that we, as parents, should have the opportunity to offer feedback and be taken seriously. The community round tables are a great opportunity to provide suggestions and feedback to the district. I wish more parents would attend those.
    Lastly, Even though we are "paying them" as you put it, we are not the experts..let's work together with THAT in mind. Would you suggest to your child's surgeon how to perform the pay them?!
    All said and done...let's just all work TOGETHER for the CHILDREN!!! I know that as a parent that is all I care children!!

  3. As for your comment about questioning a surgeon, you better believe I would question them or any other professiional that is involved in my childs life for whatever reason it maybe. If we as parents don't question or inform ourself on our children's upbringing then who will. It is my responsibility as a parent to make sure my child gets the best education, health care, etc. If I sat back and was just a "YES" person to them, then I would not be doing my job as a parent. As for the teacher in the TLC, I never heard any comment directed towards the teachers. The problem is with the cirriculm and the transition. That needs to be understood because that is were all the hurt feelings are coming from. The cirriculm is the problem not the teachers. With that being said we need to work together with all grade levels so our kids can excel in life from the education that they received at BP.

  4. I would have to agree with Annonymous #1 in this comment that our children do learn at different paces and we shouldn't have a cookie cutter curriculum, but we do need to make some academic changes.
    When we stop worrying about "who done it" and focus on "what are the exact" challenges the children are facing from one grade level to another we will begin move forward as a community. There isn't a person in this community who would have a bad thing to say about any of our teachers, secretaries, teaching assistants, aides, custodial staff members etc. It's not the High School, the Middle School, the Intermediate School or the Learning Community ~ It's ALL of them! There will always be room for improvement as long as there is continuing eduation and it is up to the board to look at its true face value not to look at it as an insult and relay it that way to the community.
    We have to let go of the no child left behind program and focus on all of our students. Everyone would have to agree that two-thirds of any given classroom contains average or above average students and the other 1/3, and in some cases less, is below average. This is where we need our teaching assistants, aides and other professional staff (reading, speech, etc) to take over and support these children.
    Times are changing and becoming more and more competitive and challenging for our kids and it is our job as educators and parents to recognize it is time to rise to the challenge. We need to step away from the philosophy of what is "developementally" age appropriate for our students and step it up to what is "developementally" challenging for our students.
    I read somewhere "if you set high expectations, make them clear, and demonstrate to students how to attain them; attain them they will!" We will watch the 2/3 of the class reach new heights and watch a few from the 1/3 of the class take it to the next level. There will always be a few that can't make it, but isn't it our responsiblity to make the "tough" decisions and focus on the majority? We can't continue to limit our students or as some would say cheat them of a better education. BP has what it takes, but are we willing to take the steps necessary to put us one step higher up on the map?

  5. For the sake of argument let's take your surgeon metaphor as a valid one. (Although, unlike school, you aren't taxed to pay one doctor's office based on your residence and other flaws)

    You receive a transplant to remedy some problem. At some point in the future you tell the surgeon that the problem remains, perhaps the surgery didn't work.

    Would you expect the surgeon to tell you "No you don't, I'm the expert here."?

    Or even "We've never been told this was a problem before. But we've known about this problem and have already taken steps to improve it."?

    This is what happened at B-P. Now you say that the person who received the surgery is at fault for complaining. We should all work together by allowing the experts to do as they see fit.

    Does that seem like a good service?

    Expectations are relative. I may expect more than you. Who is correct? In a flexible system we can both be correct - your kid can stay in a middle-of-the-road program if you wish but my kid should be allowed to pursue something higher if I wish.

    Do you agree with that? If not, why not?

  6. I have high expectations for my own children and the children that are in our community. I am certainly not saying that we should leave all of the decisions up to the educators, I too believe that questioning is important and that the education system is one that needs continual change due to the evolution of technology and so forth. Here is what bothers me that doesn't seem to be getting through...we cannot have an effective system if we are battling with one another. We have to work together as a community to see that all children are getting the best possible education. That does not mean that I except middle of the road and I do not think that TLC is lacking in a challenging education. Those children are challenged..maybe I have been fortunate enough to work with teachers that are the cream of the crop but the fact of the matter is...of all the buildings, the TLC is the one that challenges the children the most. They provide opportunities that allow children to work in their instructionally levels, to be challenged and too reach their personal goals. The children who struggle are also challenged but challenged at their level. They are "developmentally" challenging the students at TLC.
    Stop using the thought process of "we pay them, so..." Many of you are here in this district paying the taxes for these services because you chose to be in this district. You don't have to live here. You know deep down that good things happen here at BP. My husband and I moved here after researching area schools and concluding that BP is statistically one of the best. Do we need to continue to grow? YES Should parents help with that process? YES We have a good foundation to work with. Let's agree to disagree on some issues and work together to meet a common ground. The bottom line is that we all want the best education for our children.

    As a side note, to you (anonomous) who thinks your expectations are higher than mine,I have news for top of the class children are also good people. They work hard and are challenged at home and in school, they have fun and they are socially well developed. Smart,nice, polite,considerate,excited about education and well-rounded...I will take credit for much of that and thank their teachers at BPTLC for continuing to meet the high expectations that I have for my own two children.

  7. Good! We can agree that parents need to be involved. I said you MAY have lower expectations, I don't know.

    You sound like a very nice person. We moved here for the school too, at least in part. My child has not been challenged, really, and I want her to be.

    I want what's best too and feel frustrated when I'm told there's nothing wrong or that I'm asking too much or that I shouldn't criticize because I'm not an expert. I need a way to make that change happen without getting the teachers offended - it's nice to be able to say this anonymously.

    I'll bet we walk right by each other every day. Sorry about the whole 'we pay you' thing, like I said, it's frustrating and I want to get through.

  8. I have to say, I love this! It is awesome to hear how people interpret information. It certainly sounds like people are talking and in some silly way we all want the same thing. Yes, let's agree to disagree, but work together to meet at some common ground.
    Let's agree that some parents are happy with the challenges their children are being faced with every day at BP and some parents would have to disagree. The parents that disagree would like to see more academic challenges for their children. So as stated above, let's find a middle ground and get there! It's not just The Learning Community, The Intermediate School, The Middle School or just the High School, once again, it is ALL OF THEM! It's called "continuing education" and we need to continue to change, adjust, add, delete or make whatever modifications necessary to "continue our education" ~ "good or bad!"