One aspect of viewing the education of students is the measurement of educational results. Frequently, the results are measured by standardized tests. Yet, if those results used to measure teachers, then the teachers are likely to “teach to the test”. In other words, the teachers game the system by limiting their teaching to the expected test questions, or at least the expected areas of relevance to the test standards.
This type of action can be described as Goodhardt’s Law, to wit, “Any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes.” The expected measure of performance ceases to function once it is used to evaluate the social actions of real people. So why, at Housatonic Valley Regional High School, are the administrators measuring the failure of students?
Housatonic Principal Jose Martinez
By Principal Jose Martinez
I want to give you a brief update about the progress with developing a new schedule for Housatonic next year. Also a quick overview of the NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) process.
Last Tuesday (April 4th) a parent group meeting was held. This was the second such meeting. The group has 10 members. Much of the meeting was about different ways schools can organize the teaching day to maximize instructional time for students. The group discussed the four stated goals to consider when thinking about a new schedule. These goals were shared parents, faculty, and many students. These goals are:
- Intervention time for all students,
- Time in the school day for teachers from community and area colleges to teach dual credit classes,
- Allow students to be released at the same time every day for internships/work experiences, and
- Allow common planning time for teachers.
The parents also spent some time discussing grading practices at the high school. The group has one more meeting planned for April 17th.
The 2017-2018 budget for Region 1 was put to bed last night following a quiet public hearing. The net overall budget was up by 1.83% including Housatonic Valley Regional High School, Special Education in all seven school districts, and the central office. Of particular note was the decline in state revenue by approximately $294,000, some from Ag-Ed but most from the expected changes to Special Education. The towns may, or may not, receive some of these Special Education funds directly. The towns may, or may not, have to pay a third of the teacher retirement assessment. However, town revenues and costs are not and cannot be reflected in this budget.
Sometimes, we all lose sight of the most important part of public education: the children. Housatonic Valley Regional High School is not there to provide jobs to the community. The school’s only function is the public education of children. If it was closed at the end of the year, the children could be bussed to other nearby schools, and get a better education. The towns in Region 1 would reap a financial benefit of over $1,000,000 even with the increased bussing costs. And the administrators could concentrate on improving the education in the elementary schools. Of course, many children would spend longer on a bus, except for Kent where the ride would be shorter. And some alumni would mourn its loss. But Housatonic is our school, even with all the failure.
Yet seemingly every proposed change to improve the education is met with resistance. With that in mind, please listen to the following conversation with a concerned parent on the problem of scheduling of classes. And thanks to the parent, Dennis Fallon, for reaching out with his student centered concerns.
Spring is here and so are the harbingers of fall, the new schedules for the next school year. And this year, Housatonic Valley Regional High School is changing its schedule to accommodate the implementation of personalized learning. However, it is always good practice to look at what exists now. The current schedule at Housatonic is a four day cyclical schedule with special periods specially inserted on Monday and Wednesday. The extra periods are used for activities or monthly for the meeting of learning teams, or socialization. The subjects in each class move about during the week. Good learning is habit forming and nothing could be so far from good habits than this schedule.
During the last month, the administration at Housatonic has moved to revamp the class schedule to implement personalized learning. The new schedule must necessarily be an extended period schedule (block schedule) in order to provide time for extended instruction. Parent complaints about this change are mounting. I believe that the community should be aware of some aspects of the situation that may not be obvious, to the parents or to the boards of education.
In the last few years, The Connecticut State Department of Education created a new system of accountability for the state’s schools. This system includes measurement of academic performance for each school in the state. Their intention appeared to be an expansion of simple measures of student achievement to a broader set of indices to include student growth. However, the change to using SAT scores at the high school level appears to have defeated part of that purpose; individual students are harder to track. Still, if high school test results are combined with the entrance of graduates into post-secondary education, the results are informative. Housatonic Valley Regional High School appears to be in the lower third when compared to other area schools. And the academic performance at Housatonic is getting worse.
What does Housatonic Valley Regional High School have in common with the high schools in Hartford, Waterbury, Derby, Meriden, and Westbrook? Really really poor performance on the Advanced Placement (AP) tests for the class of 2016. Even hyperbola cannot cover these results.
Earlier this year, Governor Malloy presented a proposed budget to the state legislature that includes passing on part of the cost of teacher retirements to the towns. That proposal would expect each town to pay one third of the cost of the state’s retirement allocation based on the actual number of teachers currently employed in that town. For Regional school systems, each town would also accrue costs proportional to the number of students enrolled multiplied by the number of regional teachers. Thus, the cost for the high school and special education teachers employed by Region 1 would pass to each town by the appropriate average daily enrollments.
Andrea Downs, Chairman, Region 1 Board of Education
Subject: March 6th BOE meeting
Dear Parents and Students,
I am writing to you today as the Chair of the Region 1 Board of Education. I think it is important to share some thoughts and procedural issues with all of you prior to our monthly business meeting on March 6th, 2017.
The BOE is educating themselves about the many concerns parents, students and staff have in relation to the proposed schedule changes for the 2017/2018 school year. We were not at the meeting on February 23rd because it was a parent meeting and not a board meeting. The link to the video has been sent to all of us for our review. Each of us has also spoken to a number of parents, students and staff on a one on one basis and we will continue to do so.
Unfortunately, it would appear that a lot of misinformation was disseminated throughout our broader community in a way that is causing all stakeholders to feel fearful and anxious about this change. We can understand this when parents and students do not feel that they have all of the information, or if no venue has been proposed in which to ask their questions.