The community meeting on Tuesday, March 23, about the designation of our high school as a “low performing school” was the best public meeting islanders have ever had about education in my memory. Thank you to everyone who came to listen and learn and to those who spoke and made significant statements about the education of our children, and especially the students, who spoke and made us proud by their observations and remarks.
While this designation has not been a pleasant experience, in retrospect it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Hopefully, we all now realize that every citizen needs to be much more proactive about the education of our children. There are two very important lessons I learned as a result of the comments at the meeting.
First, “it does take a whole community to educate a child.” The success of our children’s education demands an active and involved citizenry. The administration cannot do it alone. The faculty and staff cannot do it alone. The school committee cannot do it alone. All three of these groups need to work with interested members of the community to educate our children. The community needs to hold all three groups accountable for improving the education of our children.
Here is one suggestion. Each principal needs to hold a public meeting twice a year—once in January after the first semester and once in June after school closes. The purpose of the meeting is to receive information from parents and the public about what went well during the previous semester and what needs to be improved for the future. Community members need to review with principals their school improvement plan to ensure that the plans are producing the desired results.
The second observation has to do with the support that our students receive, or in some cases, do not receive at home. It goes without saying that our students are more likely to be successful if they have the support for their education at home. Our faculty at both schools have begun a process called “professional learning communities,” which involves sharing of information about individual students and tries to find alternative methods of instruction for students who are struggling with their studies. This effort shows great promise for improving the educational opportunity for some of our struggling scholars. As a community, we will need to expend resources to reach out to some students to ensure that all students reach their potential.
Finally, we need to implement, for all our students, what we are required by law to do for our special needs students—that is to write, in conjunction with parents, “an individual education plan” for each student. Each plan would identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses and provide each teacher, as well as the parents, with a blueprint for the education of that student for that year.
There is no question in my mind that our schools have the potential for educating all our students to their highest potential and change the designation of our school to “high performing.” “It takes a whole community to educate a child.” Will you do your share?
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