Stamford BOE should have stopped ‘disastrous’ schedule plan | #Education

It is with great relief that the Stamford Public School leadership has finally agreed to implement a pure A/B block class schedule; meaning students gain by being enabled to take four different classes each alternating day, up to a total of eight classes per school year.

The flawed 4×4 scheme should never have survived as long as it did. Many people share responsibly for the administration and the board’s frustrating stubbornness in sticking to such a disastrous plan. As candidates for Stamford Board of Education, we believe it is important to understand exactly what transpired.

Recent months have been stressful for parents with children in the Stamford Public Schools and our teachers. When SPS Central Administration first presented the 4×4 block schedule concept of four classes per day, 5 days per week, followed by four different classes for the second half of the year, parents, teachers, Board of Education members spoke in unison of its many shortcomings.

In the subsequent months, the SPS central office did revise their proposal to combine the 4×4 schedule with the A/B schedule for some classes — IB, UConn ECE, AP, and others — that can only sensibly (or legally) be taught over a full year of class time.

Opposition, however, remained fierce and here’s why. Many felt that a half-year of courses crammed into only a few months would not be the best way to reach and teach students. There were also concerns about learning loss, effectively our kids “getting rusty” on key educational principles, as 4×4 scheduling could leave a gap of six to 12 months before they return to core subjects.

At nearly a half-dozen affected Stamford Schools, the faculty went forward with a rare vote of no confidence in the SPS Leadership, specifically tied to this program’s possible implementation.

The elected Board of Education could have and should have stepped in to stop this failed proposal at an earlier stage, given the overwhelming objections from stakeholders at many levels. Board leadership, should have recognized that the broad stakeholder support necessary for such sweeping changes simply didn’t exist. Instead, the majority that controls the decision-making, simply got in line in support of the superintendent’s plan, despite it being widely rejected by teachers, principals, community members and parents.

Two weeks ago, hearing those many voices of concern, and being on the ground level of the class scheduling process, Stamford High and Westhill High School’s principals wrote a letter to the Central Office outlining why the 4×4 hybrid scheme would not work, and strongly recommended the need to pivot to a pure A/B schedule.

Parents, students, and community members rose up to create a petition demanding the Board of Education tell the superintendent to dump the 4×4 scheme and pivot to an A/B learning schedule. Under this scrutiny and seeing how unpopular 4×4 was, at all stakeholder levels, two elected Democrats joined Republicans in telling central office that they would not support the 4×4 schedule.

The superintendent recently announced the district would move to an A/B block schedule for the upcoming school year. This was a huge achievement for the community.

While the schedule change to A/B will now allow students to earn more credits over their four years in high school, thus making it easier to graduate, our school system must better understand why so many students are not attending assigned classes and not passing in the first place.

Two of the authors are parents of children who currently have children in Stamford Public Schools and as candidates for Stamford Board of Education, all believe this 4×4 controversy is indicative as to why closer attention needs to be made to ensure that major policies and initiatives achieve support from all school district stakeholders before being implemented.

Collectively, we must ensure the district adopts programs to benefit all students, whether they choose a path to college, direct to work, a trade or technical degree program, to best equip them with the tools to create quality learning and lifelong success and fulfillment.

The authors: Diane Melchionne, Lisa Butler and Joe Andreana, Jr. are the Republican candidates for the Stamford Board of Education.

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