, Gloucester, MA

August 31, 2013

Students' instruction time short-changed

My View
Lisa Fornero

---- — I delivered this address to the Gloucester School Committee on Wednesday:

My name is Lisa Fornero and I live on Addison Street. I address you regarding my concerns with this School Committee and administration’s lack of focus on learning and instruction time.

Here, in Gloucester, we are blessed with some of the best teachers in the world. They are dedicated, passionate and highly qualified. Our children love them and they each have earned excellent reputations.

However, by scheduling so few hours of instruction, you are robbing our children of the best those teachers have to offer them — their instruction. We have put our children’s education in your hands and you are failing them.

The state of Massachusetts Department of Education is extremely clear on its expectations of school districts. You are not meeting those expectations. The math Dr. (Richard) Safier sent to me in his email of August 19th is simply incomplete. My question to this School Committee is: What are you going to do about it?

I urge you not to take my word for it. Do the math yourselves. You offer a 6-hour school day. There are 180 school days. Thirteen of those are scheduled to be half days. There is a 30-minute lunch, a 15-minute recess, about 15 minutes of transition times, about 10 minutes of homeroom activities, 15 minutes of snack, and now, another 10 minutes of breakfast.

Even if you count snack and breakfast as working times, you’re still not meeting the minimum time-frames. Do the math. Get out your calculators. I promise you, if you’re being truly honest with yourselves, you will not like the numbers you see as a result.

We have an opportunity to make a really positive change in the Gloucester schools.

Although many students have reported getting excellent educations here, our standardized test scores are not showing that. We need to get better. We need to do better.

And the first step is for students to be spending more time learning, not less.

I urge you to ask yourselves, what does it mean for a student to do poorly on a standardized test? Not what it means for the school district, not what it means for you, or for me. What does it mean for that student? For the rest of his or her life, they will be asked to live up to standards. However you feel personally about the validity of those assessments, is irrelevant. This is the standard by which students in Gloucester need to be assessed. By not giving students the time they need to learn the skills necessary to do well on those assessments, we are in essence, harming their futures.

Beyond our moral obligation, you have a legal obligation as well. It is not up to you to cut learning time. You don’t have that right. This is why state mandates exist. There is no guesswork here. You must schedule more instruction time. Period.

Gloucester parent Lisa Fornero regularly sends letters to the editor of the Times about issues in the city’s schools.