No Parent Left Behind

Last night, I attended the Woodbridge Board of Education meeting where many interesting issues were discussed. A key issue was how Woodbridge students did on the Connecticut Mastery Tests (CMT). The teachers and administration were particularly concerned to make sure that the board and any members of the public present, understood how Woodbridge could be one of the highest performing schools in the district reference group (DRG), and still not make adequate yearly progress (AYP) with regards to No Child Left Behind (NCLB). There was a long discussion about this, which reinforced my belief that NCLB is fundamentally flawed. No only on its focus on standardized testing and being an unfunded mandate, but in the way the test results are understood, and many other ways.

People spoke at the meeting about townspeople being highly concerned with the CMT scores. I must admit, any concerns that I have about CMT scores are about what may be lost in the educational process by too much focus on the CMT scores.

After the meeting, I asked a few school board members if anyone had done any research on how concerned townspeople really are about CMT scores. One person mentioned that there is a small group of people very vocal about these scores. Another mentioned that the PTO had done a survey where CMT scores did not end up being a major concerned. She went on to note that this was a skewed sample, since it was only getting data from parents there were involved in the school through the PTO.

It struck me at this point that there might be a logical explanation of this. Parents of students who perform well on the CMTs are perhaps less concerned about the CMT scores. Since, it is well known that students perform better whose parents are more involved in the school, it would all fit together. The parents who took the survey were involved in the school. As a result, their children performed better, and the parents were less concerned about CMT scores.

So, what is the best way to improve CMT scores? Perhaps it isn’t in altering the curriculum, or spending more time on test preparation. Perhaps the answer is in getting more parents involved in the school and their children’s education.

I was pleased to see that the school board seemed to have this as a focus in other issues as well. The first issue, which had a long presentation and discussion was about creating a quarter mile loop around the sports fields that would be used for exercise, not only by students, but also by parents and members of the community. Apparently, this is a topic that has been kicking around for some time, but they have made significant progress, thanks to a grant from the State, obtained by Sen. Joe Crisco, to do a study of putting in such a loop. The Woodbridge Recreation Department has been working with the school the Beecher Road School PTO to help bring this about.

Wellness is a concern expressed for the children at Beecher Road School, and by encouraging parents to become involved in recreation events at the school, the school is helping the students perform better in these areas as a result of this involvement. There was discussion about naming the quarter mile loop after Kevin Kucinskas, the well beloved fifth-grade teacher who died over the summer.

The other big issue was the school budget. Beecher Road School burns about 66,000 gallons of fuel oil a year. With the sharp increase in oil prices, this is expected to require an additional $50,000 for the school year to keep the building heated. It is hoped that savings in other areas will be able to offset this. There was a discussion about whether or not the 66,000 gallons was a recent figure, perhaps skewed by year-to-year temperature variations, or if it was averaged out over a longer period.

The schools business manager explained that it was based on longer term averages and the discussion went to methods of reducing the amount of fuel used. It was suggested that getting the students and the parents involved in efforts to reduce fuel consumption might be beneficial. Yet again, I come back to the idea of parental involvement. The more involved the parents are in efforts to conserve fuel, the better off the school will be, and hopefully, this will spill over into people’s homes. Families could save money and be more energy efficient by learning how to conserve through programs with the school.

It was a long, and interesting meeting, and it brought home the importance of parental involvement in all aspects of the school. Let’s hope that Beecher Road, and other schools, start spending a little more time on No Parent Left Behind as a better way of dealing with the testing issues for No Child Left Behind.