Keep 5 Sections for 2016-17 Third Graders at Westorchard
We, the parents of the current second grade students at Westorchard Elementary School, formally oppose the Chappaqua Central School District’s plans to collapse the current five sections to four sections. If the District moves forward with this plan, we feel that the following key operating standards in the proposed 2016-2017 District budget will not be met:
- Provide school environments that are safe and supportive of emotional health and well-being
- Ensure continual instructional program improvement
The district is planning to reorganize the current five sections at the grade level to four sections with 24.3 students in each learning environment. This active, boy-heavy grade level (58 boys and 39 girls) has a history of being behaviorally difficult and currently has assigned seats in the cafeteria due to their inability to follow directions and function in a large group.
Included in the Proposed Budget for 2016-2017 is a slide that compares projected enrollment, sections and class sizes across the district.
School: Enrollment, Sections, Class Size
Grafflin: 98 enrolled, 5 sections, 19.6 students per class
Roaring Brook: 109 enrolled, 5 sections, 21.8 students per class
Westorchard: 97 enrolled, 4 sections, 24.3 students per class
As you can see, Grafflin has one more projected student (98 vs. 97 at Westorchard), yet they get five sections. The Westorchard sections will have 24% more students than the Grafflin sections and 11% more students than the Roaring Brook sections. A 2-5 child advantage gives the students in our other elementary schools many more quality instructional minutes. How does the District explain this disparity? Why doesn’t the District strive to make teacher/student ratios equitable? All Chappaqua students in the same grade should be getting roughly the same amount of time and attention from our teachers.
These are not the days of passing out the same worksheet to every student in a classroom or even the days of homogeneous grouping where classrooms are leveled by high, middle and low according to capability and achievement. Our school district is implementing twenty-first century differentiated curriculum, which seems to require more favorable teacher/student ratios. For example:
- The Teachers College Reading program is described as follows, "Teachers assess students to learn the level of text complexity that each child can handle and channel kids towards text they can read. Teachers record progress and study data to ascertain patterns in reading. Teachers study performance assessments and differentiate student work."
- The district has implemented the Teachers College Writing program. In this progressive methodology, teachers provide mini-lessons of direct instruction. The students are then given time to write and apply the skills and feedback is provided via one-to-one conferences designed to move the students along a personal developmental trajectory.
- The new Singapore math program emphasizes the mastery of concepts through dynamic problem solving and communication.
These changes to the curriculum require fewer students to a class, not more.
We respectfully raise the following issues:
Teacher attention- Every student, whether they are at the top of the class academically, the middle, or the lower-end requires teacher attention. Creating an environment where none of those student cohorts gets the attention they deserve is a recipe for each student failing to reach their potential.
Standardized testing- Third grade is the first exposure to state assessments. Though we all (parents, teachers, administration) attempt to remain casual about the testing situations, the students all feel the pressure of the testing. This is not the time for less teacher attention, it is a year for more teacher attention.
Writing- With an emphasis on learning to write in third grade, how can a teacher possibly differentiate and conference with 24 beginning writers?
Discipline- What is the plan for the increase in classroom discipline problems as a result of bigger classes, with a projected 15 boys per classroom? How much time will be taken away from instruction to handle disciplinary issues?
Chappaqua Central School District is typically ranked as one of the highest scoring academic school districts in the country and new families are drawn here as a result. With increased class sizes, how will our overall state test scores be impacted? If we as a third grade score poorly, are people as attracted to our elementary school? Third grade students are still working toward becoming independent thinkers. They are still learning to read instead of reading to learn. Scarsdale school district understands this and limits K-3 to 22 pupils per classroom. Our community relies on our school district to function at the highest of levels.
Our chief priority should be that all students in our elementary schools have the same opportunity to succeed and thrive. We know that there is money in the District budget for a contingency teacher. We are asking the board and the administration to use the available money to create equitable teacher to student ratios across the district for the 2016-17 3rd grade classes.