精彩英文、有理有据--华人致信报纸讨论学区问题


贾崇茂    10/10     8511    
4.5/2 

整理者注:最近新州一好学区因为要削减数学快班和音乐项目,以及取消期中期末考试,引起很多华人家长不满。他们做研究,去学区开会,发言,写信到地方报纸,为其他地区华人提供了学习的机会。下文有理有据,大家参与社会多学学如何据理力争。

On Changes in WW-P【Part 1】-- Unwelcome Changes

Can you imagine that midterm and final exams are being eliminated in our schools? This is one of a series of surprise changes that have been implemented when the schools started one month ago.

I couldn't have believed it had I not heard it from my son who becomes a freshman in WW-P HSS. This is an absurd decision that can only hurts the students. What is more bizarre about this decision is that it seems to come from nowhere. Even the teachers were taken by surprise and confused. This is a profoundly and widely impacting decision. Was adequate study conducted? Was the public given the chance to voice their opinions? Had teachers been consulted with? Had students been consulted with? 
[there is an excellent article on this subject in the September 29th issue of WW-P News written by Carol Herts]

This is not an isolated decision. In fact, ELIMINATION has become the trendy word of our school district in the past year or so, and surprise decisions like this have become a pattern. Just as I am writing this, words has come out that the Village School (very likely Community School too) Group lessons & rehearsal time for Chamber students during the school hour were eliminated! It is said the program has been moved into after school. But the after school program is mostly for rehearsals and has no school buses, meaning this high quality and popular music program is being eliminated. Students and parents alike are scrambling to find out what is happening and what to do.

Decisions are made before debates can start. This is the tried-and-true method that guarantees that what is done can not be undone.

Examples are abundant, from restricting Option II, to letting a beloved art teacher leave the district, to throwing money on chrome books etc... In last month, a new plan was also being proposed to ELIMINATE the highly successful math A&E program in grade 4&5!

This administration seems very obsessed with changes and has a very busy agenda of changes. But changes are not always good. WW-P has been a very successful school district with many excellent programs and choices for students, thanks to years of collaborative effort among previous administrations, teachers, parents and students. So the question is, what kind of changes do we really need?

We are cutting those top quality programs one by one. We are taking away students' choices piece by piece. We are eliminating mid/final exams that have been the bread and butter tool of education quality assurance. Those are definitely not the changes this district needs.

On Changes in WW-P【Part 2】-- To grow crops, cutting the top is not the solution

In the proposal to eliminate current 4th & 5th math A&E program, I heard the argument that this program serves very few. That is a very narrow minded and short sighted argument. First of all, 10% is not few. In the meantime I would also agree that this program indeed serves fewer than it should, because there are actually more demand out there than it currently can accommodate. The external report by an independent educational research institution estimates that about 30% of the students in our district would be considered gifted and talented and they need more rigorous and challenging academic programs. Many of our kids in the regular math classes are bored. To the contrary of the proposed elimination, the A&E program actually needs to be expanded, or similar programs need to be created to adequately meet our kids' needs. Secondly and more importantly, A&E is a specialty program. Like any specialty programs, it is of course not for everyone. Children vary in their interests, talents, strengths, and developments. Specialty programs and different levels of programs are created to meet their individual needs. Some kids do well in math or science. Some outperform in music or arts. Some excel in sports. Some flourish in communications or writing. Some develop early. Some catch up later, etc... Each program serves only a few, but all programs together serve everyone. By eliminating each programs which serves "only a few", none will be served.

Part of the reason this district has top rated schools is that the schools offer a variety of top quality programs at students' choice. Those excellent programs and choices attract students, challenge them, and motivate them. Our children excel in every area -- math, science, music, sports, debate ... just to mention a few. They consistently give outstanding performances in state and nation wide competitions. We have been so proud of our students and our district. However, at the speed those programs are being eliminated or cut, it takes only a few years to see our children to suffer, our schools to nosedive and our property value to plunge.

Concerns about student stress are often cited as the reason behind the many changes, but common sense tells us that eliminating varieties and choices as the way of reducing student stress is just illogical. Maybe bring our schools back to average or "normal" is what is really intended? Maybe egalitarianism has become the new and more politically correct theme? Given the opaqueness of the district's decision making process on educational matters, especially curriculum designs and changes, one can only wonder exactly what is driving so many bizarre changes these days? One thing I do notice and am shocked is that "racial imbalance", alongside "serves few", is also cited  in the district's internal report as the reason behind the proposal to eliminate 4&5th grade A&E.  I am wondering if those are the same reasons behind the latest changes to our excellent music programs, essentially the cutting of advanced chamber music programs? And by the same logic, many of our schools varsity sports programs are "serving few" and "racially imbalanced". Are we going to eliminate them too?

We do face student stress issues, and the issues are especially serious in high schools. But eliminating A&E programs, cutting advanced chamber music programs or restricting Option II is not the solution, neither is eliminating mid/final exams. 

On Changes in WW-P【Part 3】-- Teacher, it is all about teachers
To me, the stress issue is to a large extent related to another serious issue this district is facing, which is teacher quality and morals. Experienced, high quality and hardworking teachers are leaving our district at accelerated speed, while those who stay do not feel being encouraged to insist on  holding the students to high standard by following rigorous and engaging curriculum and teaching practice, somethings that have worked well. As Jordon DeGroot, the High School senior who is running for BOE next month, has pointed out, there are serious problems in our teacher valuation system. There is a big gap between the administration and the student body. There is a obvious disconnect between the administration and the teachers. The communication in our district has become a one-way communication, which is decisions being made for students and orders being given out to teachers. It is the students who interact with their teachers day in day out. They know better about their teachers than anyone else. But when it comes to evaluating their teachers or new hiring, they don't have a voice that they deserve. Just a few months ago, we witnessed one of their beloved teachers being let go even if there were massive students pleas and protests both in schools and during BOE meeting. 

We can afford spending lavishly on chrome books (which are not only waste of money, they are also doing more harm than good to our kids), why can't we spend a little more to hire more good teachers, or to better train our teachers?
On Changes in WW-P【Part 4】-- Stop blaming the homework
Homework has been linked to stress, and there has been a big push to reduce homework. Attentions and efforts by the district toward this issue are very much welcome, but the approach is questionable. I have seen a parent survey by the school district on homework a few ,months ago. By reading those suggestive questions, you can tell what solution the surveyor had already in mind, which is to reduce homework. I am not against reducing homework, but reducing homework just for the sake of reducing homework will not solve the problem. The purpose of homework is to help students practice and master what is being taught in class. An experienced teacher knows how to structure and integrate classroom activities and homework assignments, making homework short but effective, much like a high quality intense workout. The common problem of the homework nowadays is that our children are spending hours and hours on homework assignments that are meaningless. They seem to work hard and manage to complete the homework, but they still struggle with the subject. Quality and Effectiveness is lacking. I've seen my child doing math homework by playing silly math games for a long period on the school chrome book, and what she could remember afterwards are only those colourful birds and dogs on the screen. I've also seen my child spent hours on science homework, mostly searching cool pictures on internet and editing and formatting. I've seen my child making the same kind of mistakes on the same kind of questions repeatedly, or getting correct scores even doing wrong. Many teachers rarely check students' homework, let alone following up. They simply let students cross check and score each other's homework. Many times I have to step in to help my children on their homework not because the homework is challenging, but because they need the guidance and the follow up that are supposed to come from the teacher. To some extent, homework is being given out carelessly, without careful design and selection beforehand and without true follow up afterwards. The result is endless and meaningless homework. Good homework assignment does not always need hours to finish. 

Direct our resources to better train our teachers and to hire good teachers. That will be more effective than draining our money on things like chrome books or layers of supervisors/superintendents that can only add to bureaucracy and hurt our children.

We have seen enough cutting of good programs and teachers that have made our district great and successful. We have seen enough restrictions on students' choices that have give them the freedom to flourish. We don't need such kind of changes.

As Jordon DeGroot, the new candidate for BOE says, we need quality education, we need board transparency, and we need to listen to students and let them have a say for their own education. Those are the good changes this district really needs.