Category Archives: Curricula and Learning

Full Day Kindergarden – Advocacy and Cost

I have been quite open to full day kindergarten (FDK) as research indicates it supports children academically, socially, and emotionally. My approach to an issue like this is to confirm the objective, and then work to figure out how to fund it.

Newton’s FDK task force, working under past superintendent Jim Marini, suggested steps to advance this discussion a couple years ago but no further action has been taken. So step one is to do followup. Continue reading Full Day Kindergarden – Advocacy and Cost

Sleeping in is good for high schoolers. Who knew?

Groundbreaking work that began in Minnesota in the 1990s routinely shows positive results for high school students who start school later in the morning. This relates directly to adolescent biology around Circadian rhythms and the timing of Melatonin production. Here are categories where differences have been studied following later start times:

1. Grades – (hard data and surveys) Analysis does not show statistically significant grade improvements, but students consistently report that they are getting better grades.

2. Tiredness – (surveys) Both students and teachers report a decrease in student tiredness during first and second period classes. This is reported by both parties as lower incidences of students falling asleep at their desks! Students also report that they have greater clarity of thought and get through their class- and home-work more quickly. Continue reading Sleeping in is good for high schoolers. Who knew?

Virtual Learning in Newton

My nephew (college sophomore) and niece (high school senior) live in Merritt Island, FL, and they have taken about 1/3 of their coursework online via the Florida Virtual High School (FVHS). This high school program is fully accredited and their local school gives 100% credit towards graduation. The program gives them access to coursework not available locally, and gives them great scheduling flexibility. Newton residents can access these FVHS courses for $400 per semester. Continue reading Virtual Learning in Newton

State Officials Back Newton STEM Effort

NewtonSTEM (science, technology, engineering and math), a new organization created by Newton parents to promote interest and opportunities around STEM careers for Newton students, held a kickoff event at the Newton Senior Center on March 7th. State Representative Ruth Balser introduced STEM advocate Lt. Governor Tim Murray, who spoke on the state government’s growing emphasis on STEM promotion. This effort is about helping our kids since 21st century jobs will be increasingly STEM-related, and it’s about helping our economy and our global competitiveness too. Continue reading State Officials Back Newton STEM Effort

Aquinas as a Magnet School – Good for Academics, Good for Space Crunch

A K-8 magnet school at Aquinas offers an intriguing double-bonus:

1. It gives us an opportunity to strengthen our academic program with a math/science academy, a Montessori program, or world language immersion (e.g. Framingham’s math charter school, and the highly regarded Holliston French immersion and Montessori offerings);

2. It will draw off every single elementary and middle school in Newton, reducing enrollment pressures at every single school in the district. If spending on Aquinas eliminates the need to spend for expansion at some of our other schools that must be added into the economic equation. Continue reading Aquinas as a Magnet School – Good for Academics, Good for Space Crunch

A Data Approach to Curriculum Assessment

I am looking forward to watching how Dr. Fleishman applies a data approach to curriculum assessment. Non-data folks have dismissed the proliferation of math tutoring schools to the ultra-competitiveness of Newton students. Others, including me, would like to understand whether the quality of our Math programs, including Everyday and Impact Math, are also having an impact. I consider this to be too important of a question to answer with gut feelings and speculation, which are the tools that Newton has used to evaluate this question until now.

The Impact of Math Schools?

In 2004, a limited NPS survey found that 25% of our students received tutoring or outside math school support. Since then at least three high-profile math schools have opened and are thriving around Newton. We haven’t surveyed our student population again, but we must determine whether the instructional credit for our high math scores should go to our expensive Everyday/Impact/math coach effort, or the local Russian Math school. Are we getting good value for the NPS program, or are we spending money and getting poor results, results that are only hidden by an affluent parent population who can afford outside math support? We must focus on educational results, followed immediately by the cost to achieve them. We must ask good questions, and be willing to act on the answers.

Our math program and teacher compensation

Poor quality math curricula hurts the educational outcomes of our children, and compromises the work environment so important to retaining top quality teachers.

I have been concerned for some time about the quality of our Everyday and Impact Math programs being used in our elementary and middle schools. Personal exposure via my children, anecdotal commentary by fellow parents, discussions with Newton’s teachers, and a study of national literature and reviews strongly suggest that these two math programs are compromising the math education of Newton’s children.   Continue reading Our math program and teacher compensation