Students in Salem, MA learn a hard lesson about class
Dear [insert name here]:
Welcome back to school, Salem, MA student! If you’ll be attending this school, this school or this school, let me take this opportunity to congratulate you. Like the mariners of yore, your parents successfully navigated the treacherous shoals of Salem’s school *choice* system. And that’s great news for you because it means that you’ll be having your *whole child* educated this year, including the part of you that loves art, music and super cool project-based learning. As for those of you who’ll be going to this school, this school, this school or this school, well, your education is going to look just a little bit different. Shall we pop in and see?
Blueprint 4 Success
Say hello to your new teachers, Bentley Elementary 3rd, 4th and 5th graders! You see, your old teachers were supposed to lift your school up and turn it around—but they couldn’t make it turn fast enough. And that got some grownups thinking: what if instead of waiting for your old teachers to make the school turn faster, some professional turn-er-arounders ran your grades instead? Better wear your helmet, because your school is going to be turning fast!
I bet you’re noticing some big changes at your school already—like the fact that you’re wearing a uniform, and that you’re there for a real long time. You see, grownups have figured out that the best way to make your test scores go up, which is the same thing as making your school turn faster, is for you to spend LOTS of time at school. Which is why your day now starts at 7:00AM with *routines and structures,* before moving onto the *responsive classroom,* *ELA/social studies,* *ELA intervention,* *math intervention,* followed by *math,* and wrapping up with *additional intervention.* And just to make sure that your scores are going up, up, up, you’ll be assessed every six weeks. In other words, your new school is *going to be relentless about planting the college seed* but without wasting time on studying the process of germination. Extra credit: one math problem that no one has been able to solve yet? Just how much is Blueprint being paid to turn up your scores?
Well hey there, Bowditch student, looking snazzy in your new uniform (which you discovered you would be wearing two weeks before school started.) Now you may be wondering why only kids at some schools in Salem wear uniforms, but there’s an easy answer: choice! You see, students who chose this school, for example, get to study weaving and may even choose to wear clothes to school that they’ve woven themselves. You chose a different kind of school, one that is *charting a course of excellence* and will become even more excellent next year when it becomes a charter school. Oh, and if you’re wondering about whatever happened to that dual language program for students like you who are still learning English, well, it’s no mas, because as Mayor Kim Driscoll, the jefe of Salem explains, *We can’t have our cake and eat it too.* Translation: only the kids whose parents chose to send them to a school with a project-based baking unit get to do that!
You know what would be funny, Collins Middle Schooler? If some grownups decided to make your school day longer and waited till two weeks before the start of school to tell anybody, not even the teachers! But this is no laughing matter. You see, at schools like yours, Salem is *moving away from a model of teaching the whole child and towards a model of academic rigor.* Which of these is the definition that best fits the word rigor? 1) a word that certain grown ups use a lot when describing the kinds of schools to which they’d never send their own kids 2) the opposite of *enrichment,* as in only the kids whose parents are *enriched* enough get to study science every day 3) a person who rigs or attends to the rigging of the sailing ships that, along with psychic shops and witch-related attractions, now provide the basis of Salem’s tourist economy or 4) strictness, severity or harshness, as in dealing with people.
Psst: hey Carlton kid: do you like to write? No, silly, not creative writing! That’s only for kids whose parents chose this school, this school or this school. Writing at your school means preparing for the MCAS long composition, and you’re going to spend a LONG time preparing for it. That is until the ELA MCAS is done and ELA is no longer important, then it’s math, math, math! In fact, you’ll be so busy getting ready to take the MCAS that there won’t be any time left for *fluffy stuff* like science. Did I mention that you’ll be spending eight whole days taking ANet tests so that the grown ups at your school can predict whether or not you’re going to pass the MCAS, and other grown ups can evaluate your teachers on how good of a job they’re doing preparing you to prepare to take the MCAS? I have an idea: since it’s time once again to prepare for the long comp portion of the MCAS, why don’t you write a persuasive essay now about how you feel about the MCAS? Extra credit if you’re able to demonstrate in a single real assignment that the grown ups who are making the decisions in your school and school district are wrong about almost everything.
Note: thanks to all of the parents and teachers in Salem for sharing what’s happening in your schools.