Monday, March 17, 2008

Stamford Press: Toquam in the NY Times

The New York Times features the closing* of Toquam in an article called "Stamford Will Close K-5 Magnet School." The article captures the shady reasoning behind the decision to close one of Stamford's four schools (out of twenty) that meets NCLB standards.

As usual, Starr and the school board end up looking weak:
Joshua P. Starr, the district superintendent, said that closing the lowest performing schools may produce worse academic results and that the board has learned from the successful practices at Toquam.

... what have they learned, exactly?

I have never, in all of the newspaper articles from the past 7 months, heard of the school board giving a single example of what they’ve learned from Toquam. In fact, a Toquam parent told me that one reason parents are so upset is that the school board has given no indication of how they plan to replicate Toquam’s success.

If the school board has a plan to implement any of Toquam’s practices, they’re not sharing it. Instead, they’re offering empty platitudes to excuse what appears to be a careless solution to Stamford's budget issues and bad long-term planning in relation to school numbers.

On a possibly more positive note, I am very interested in how Stamford plans to racially balance every single one of its elementary schools. I think it’s an important goal, but can you imagine how many kids they’ll have to move? If they can’t even smoothly close one school, how are they going to shake up all of the eleven remaining elementary schools without creating a big, poorly-thought out mess?

Speaking of poorly-thought out:
District officials say they will keep working with the parents to find a way to keep the Toquam students together even as they integrate into the new school.
“No one wants to be in the position of having to close a school,” Dr. Starr said to the parents. “Moving them is a good idea to maintain continuity.”

That last sentence begs so many questions and “huh?”s.

Past Stamford Talk articles on Stamford schools:

Stamford School Shake Up: SOS- October 11, 2007

Stamford School Controversy Part 2- October 18, 2007

Redistricting: Test Scores, Money, Suspense!- January 8, 2008

Toquam School Pretty Much Dead- March 6, 2008

*Update 3/18: The Save Toquam site notes that the Times said that Toquam is going to be closed, but that the board will not make the final decision until Wednesday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Stamford Public Schools are a disaster. I know first hand because I taught at one of them for 7 years. Even back then chaos reigned. I was allotted 1 ream of paper per month to make photo copies for my students. With a classroom of 25 students, that didn't allow for much. So when teachers in my school began buying paper with their own money, the school then limited the number of copies we were allowed to make on the photocopier each month. I can go on for hours talking about the lack of support for teachers and the red tape in the district but I wont waste my time. I also wont go into the fact that I had 25 students in grade 3 some of whom read on a 5th grade level and others who could barely read on a first grade level. It was an impossible task to challenge all of those students and teach them in the same room to the extent they deserved.

My big beef now is that these schools are failing miserably with only 4 Stamford schools passing NCLB and I am the parent of a child who is about to enter school. I am districted for KT Murphy which is all the way across town from where I live. There are several school closer, but they try to send the children in my neighborhood there to "balance" the school racially, which I might remark is now illegal per the ruling of the Supreme Court last May. KT Murphy's test scores are so horrible that I would NEVER consider sending my children there nor does anyone in my neighborhood. I dont remember the exact number but only about 60% of the 4th graders there are reading on grade level. Do I really want to have my child in a peer group like that? I think not. When I looked into the lotteries for the magnet school which have much better resources and test scores, I was pretty much laughed at and told I was on the 5th tier of the lottery because of where we lived. I had no choice but to take 1 of 2 roads- either sell my home and move to Greenwich or Darien or apply to private schools. It is pretty sad and unfair!!! Stamford's schools will only worsen as people in my situation flee to other towns for refuge from the educationally challenged city in which we live. Stamford is shooting itself in the foot.