To the editor:
As a concerned parent who has been involved in the planning process at New York School, I feel compelled to respond to recent statements regarding the changes proposed for New York and Riverside.
First and foremost, these changes are not designed to emphasize the mediocre nor to pander to the underachiever. On the contrary, my support for New York School's plan is based on my conviction that gifted students will fare better with a multi-age structure.
Second, it would be erroneous to say that we are totally breaking with tradition. Remember the one-room schoolhouse? My mother does. After two years at a one-room country school, she transferred to a city school and was placed in the third grade, later graduating high school at the top of her class. Obviously we can't return to the one-room school days, but we can learn from them.
Third, team teaching is an important component of the multi-age structure. The child who dislikes or fears a particular teacher will not have to suffer one year with him or her, let alone three. Team teaching gives teachers the flexibility to work out different combinations of teachers and students to create the optimum educational environment.
Fourth, grades (letter or number) are overrated as a motivator. They are highly subjective and they give parents minimal information about how or what a child is doing in school. At New York, we will be developing an evaluation system that provides specific and meaningful information about each student's skills, accomplishments and areas of difficulty. The teacher, parent and student will all know exactly what that student needs to work on in every subject area.
We all come into this world ready to learn. Yet anyone who has spent time with young children knows we have different ways and rates of learning. If our schools are to be successful, we must allow each child to experience the excitement of learning and discover for themselves how they learn best.
Some people need to read about a subject; others need to work with physical representations; still others understand best if they see a pictorial representation. This is not "watering down" curriculum. Quite to the contrary, it requires "beefing it up." If done right, the students become active participants in their education, the biggest key to success.
Finally, we must face the fact that our world is changing and not blame the schools for society's problem but make them part of the solution.
Jennifer K. Brown,