Stamford Middle School Reform - Sign Best Choice!
To: Mr. Corcoran, President & Chairman, GE Foundation, From: Concerned Stamford Public School Parents We are writing to you because we understand the GE Foundation has played an important role in the Stamford Middle School Reform. We are a group of Stamford Public School parents who would like you to know of both our great praise for and one grave concern regarding the Stamford Middle School Reform initiative. We also want you to know that we applaud and appreciate the great commitment the GE Foundation has made to improve Stamford Public Schools in general. There is widespread support for the vast majority of changes being made for the better including the following: flexible grouping and re-grouping of students, as opposed to static tracks, placing students in different groups per subject based upon ability in that subject, constant formative assessment of students and thereby moving students up or down to a different group as appropriate, high expectations for all students, a rich curriculum, high learning standards for all students, support for teachers, and measurement and accountability for the teachers. However, there is a grave area of concern about the move to just two academic groups. It is an unnecessary component of the broader set of changes and one fraught with significant pitfalls. Note that there is a highly successful, fully functioning model already within our school system that is performing far above citywide performance overall and in closing the achievement gap -- the Westover Elementary School model. In addition to the changes above, the plan uses 4-5 flexible ability groups per subject in math and language arts. This school scores a 9 out of 10 in the greatschools.com ratings. No other public school in Stamford scores above a 6, including Scofield Middle School, which is considered a paradigm implementation of the reforms that are about to take place in our middle schools, and has had years to make it work, yet is apparently experiencing only marginal success compared to the multiple ability grouping model. The research base supporting heterogeneous grouping has also been called into question – in general as being one-sided and specifically as being not fully applicable to Stamford, as data from the two above schools supports. A summary of research on this compiled by several other Stamford parents was presented to the Superintendent of Schools and Board of Education at the Board of Education meeting on May 26. Also, Dr. Joshua Starr acknowledged in his June 2 Middle School Community Conversation presentation that there is no school system with demographics like Stamford’s that has a documented success with this approach. We respectfully encourage you to look at the success of the multiple ability grouping model as an ideal model for Stamford. It serves all levels of students extremely well, and it achieves the goals described above. It also overcomes many of the concerns that are prevalent in the community regarding moving to the heterogeneous model. With so much stacked against the success of heterogeneous grouping, and so much success already demonstrated with the multiple ability grouping model including metrics to show that it would be a big step in the right direction for Stamford, we feel it would be a terrible disservice for Stamford to ignore its own fully functioning best practices. Please read the synopsis and conclusions from the above mentioned studies that have been forwarded to you, and peruse also the information and study manuscripts that are attached for your reference. We would like to partner with you on the best approach for our children, and look forward to knowing your thoughts on this critical initiative. We sincerely hope that the Stamford Public School Administration will seriously reconsider the implementation of the current Middle School Reform plan that is risky and unproven, and adopt the best practices that have been proven successful for many years right here in our own school district with our own children.