“We’re concerned about much more than test scores, but these latest numbers provide an urgent opportunity to ask some tough questions,” said Randall Prose, a social studies teacher and coach at Windham High School, as well as president of the Windham Federation of Teachers, Local 1577. “We’re about to start the third school year of major reform. The time is now to come together and demand answers.”
Prose’s comments refer to the appointment in 2011 by the state Department of Education of a “Special Master” to intervene and oversee operations in Windham Public Schools. The move followed years of steady declines in student achievement that corresponded with rapidly increasing poverty rates in the city of Willimantic and surrounding communities served by the district.
“Now is not the time to divert attention away from solving problems at the high school,” said Prose. “Our students are counting on all of us – from the Special Master on down – to be constructive and to be accountable,” he said.
“We’ve always said that for any reform to work there must be opportunity for true collaboration,” said Kathleen Koljian, an Advanced Placement English teacher at Windham High School and a member of AFT Local 1577. “That collaboration must include committed educators, engaged parents and community members in making decisions that impact the opportunities for our students to learn. The law establishing the Special Master role was well intentioned and could prove effective, provided the appointed Special Master responded to the needs of our community. That is why we also need to engage our elected officials,” she said.
Kojian’s comments refer to numerous policy changes implemented at the high school without the meaningful participation of families or teachers since the state-directed turn-around. Examples include the near elimination of bilingual education for the district’s growing population of English Language Learners and dividing the high school into separate academies without established curriculums for either.
“We shouldn’t overestimate the value of test scores, but an appropriate response to this trend in Windham is a united community effort to examine what is working and what is not,” said Melodie Peters, president of AFT Connecticut. “The community’s students are not a science project and their schools are more than laboratories. They deserve a real commitment to do what it takes to get their education right,” she said.
AFT Connecticut represents more than 28,000 professionals across the state, including 350 teachers and education support personnel in Windham Public Schools. Follow the union on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aftct.
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