October 20, 2015
Dear Council Members:
Parents Across Rhode Island is a non-profit organization founded and managed by parents of the state. Our focus is to inform, advocate and give parents a voice on issues central to our children, with an emphasis on public education. This letter is intended to clarify and emphasize my points in my verbal statement at the meeting tonight. I would appreciate the opportunity to have a meeting with you and any members of the Council on these and other concerns of parents as it relates to education.
There are three main points I’d like to make to the Council: the need for parental involvement, elementary school standards, and graduation requirements.
- The Council and the Department of Education need to set up a process by which parents have a voice in the development of state policy. While I recognize that parents cannot have an official seat on the Council, a system must be put in place that seeks parents as active participants in the discussion and decisions around state policy.While the Council and the Board of Education have a great deal of policy and administrative experience, parents of our state with school aged children offer invaluable insight to how the current policies are impacting our children.
- Standards for elementary school children need to be revised. To borrow from the Commissioner’s analogy from a couple of weeks ago, we sure do need a map to get to Westerly, but that map will depend entirely on where we start. The notion that standards in first or second grade should somehow be a direct line from those of high school is inappropriate. Please see the attached report on the inappropriateness of the Common Core Standards for elementary schools: Joint Statement on Core Standards
The reality is that under the current standards, kindergartners are going home with homework, recess time is shortened, and kids have less than 20 minutes to eat lunch. Second graders are being drilled on how many math problems they can complete in a minute. How is any of this learning?The notion that ‘kids are resilient’ or that this is ‘rigor’ is dismissive of the genuine struggles that kids and parents face and disrespectful to the realities of families across the state. This is not just an issue of transition, this is an issue of meeting children where they are and setting and measuring standards in a manner that recognizes that children grow and learn at different rates and still all have the opportunity to be successful, however that is defined. Parents need to be heard and these concerns need to be addressed via a look at the standards for elementary schools and parents need to be a part of those conversations.
- Graduation Requirements need to be broadened. Parents Across Rhode Island welcomes the discussion on broadening graduation requirements, and we expect that parents will have a seat at the table of discussion on what these requirements should be. The emphasis on a standardized test is wholly inappropriate for many reasons, not the least of which is that standardized tests are simply not always an accurate measure of what a student knows.There are many models out there for graduation requirements that the Department of Ed and the Council can and should consider for our state and I look forward to participating in that discussion to find appropriate standards for our graduating seniors.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to positive and productive conversations with the Council and the Department of Education to move our state forward.
Director – Parents Across Rhode Island