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Principals Message

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Principal’s Message

Date: May 1, 2011 Author: admin Categories: Principals Message

Hello BA families.

This week is Week 2 of STAR testing at Brittan Acres. Unless children were absent and need to make up assessments, they will be finished with this year’s statewide standardized testing by Friday.

Measuring Achievement Through Standardized Tests
Achievement tests are not new in California. What is relatively new is the high stakes nature of the results. STAR stems from the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, intended to support achievement for all children via rigorous testing and reporting of student progress. Each year, the percentage of students at or above grade level in a school must rise, until 2014 when all children in California’s schools must score proficient. Proponents argue that this focus on outcomes has produced healthy accountability for the progress of all students–and I agree that no child should ever be left behind. However, one of several unintended consequences has been the narrowing of schools’ curricula.

Sadly, in too many California schools, teachers and administrators feel driven by the STAR tests. They fear the comparison of their students’ scores against the annually rising required percentages. Add to this California’s inability to fully fund schools, and we get the perfect storm. Rather than embrace sensible (albeit costly) elements of a well-rounded education including lessons in music, science, art, and technology, many schools feel forced to narrow the curriculum and “teach to the test.” Moreover, by focusing on just what is tested in a few hours each spring, learning is often shallow and disconnected, rather than deep and meaningful.

Broader Definitions of Success
Here at Brittan Acres, I’m glad to report that we measure children’s success more broadly. While we strive to teach children all of the reading, writing, and mathematics required to perform successfully on the STAR test, this is not our total purpose.

  • We teach reading for recreation and for information, so students will be prepared to continue learning as their world changes rapidly around them.
  • We teach children to listen and think critically, and to speak credibly; we show them how to write the way they think, knowing it will make them powerful players in every arena of their lives.
  • We teach children to compare, quantify, and determine relationships between numbers and data, so they will become problem solvers who will engineer solutions in their lifetimes.
  • We teach classroom science through actual hands-on experiences, knowing these experiences lead to conceptual learning that is foundational. Through PTA-led BUGS we teach children who already love to dig, plant, and study insects how all of nature is connected and interdependent.
  • We explicitly teach life skills and social and emotional lessons, realizing the value of working cooperatively with others toward common goals.
  • We build on children’s love of music and dance, teaching them how to read and notate music, and to move gracefully and expressively.
  • Through PTA-led Art In Action, and teachers’ lessons in classrooms, already creative children learn how to perceive the art in others’ work, and develop strategies to build on new understanding.
  • Realizing that intelligence manifests in numerous ways, we work to highlight each child’s strengths.

Partnering with Parents
So much of what makes our school special, unique, and functional comes from our families’ support and participation! BUGS and Art In Action are PTA programs, funded and implemented by parents. Our community’s donations to SCEF, as well as local parcel taxes make possible a well-rounded approach to education in San Carlos.

For all you do to support the broad success of our school and our children: Thank you, Brittan Acres families.

Best,
John Triska