Blogger draws more fire over Nauset Middle School 6th grade advanced courses decision [Letters]

No benefit to trash talking

Editor's note: The following letter was received in response to a recent post by blogger Roger MacBride entitled "Nauset goes backwards? D-Y moves forward?" on March 6, 2012.

To the Editor:

Inflammatory and polarizing. The Cape is full of wonderful educational choices. Choose the one that suits your needs and sing its praises from the hills if you like, but there is no benefit to anyone in trash talking others, especially in such a public forum.

Katie Clancy
Dennis, MA (with kids in both districts)

*****

Grouping students harms students, hinders self-esteem

Editor's note: The following letter was received in response to a recent post by blogger Roger MacBride entitled "Pour gas on the flames of education" on March 7, 2012.

To the Editor:

I am not dissatisfied with Mr. MacBride’s opinions, while I do disagree with them and believe he is misinformed, I am dissatisfied with the rash and emotional way he presents them.  Mr. MacBride suggests sending his children to a different school because he is so appalled at the middle school’s decision to eliminate advanced classes at the sixth grade level. I myself graduated from Nauset High School and Nauset Middle School, and based on how successful I have been I can firmly say that I would not have been this successful if I had gone to a different school. I owe a great deal of my success to the Nauset Public School systems- and I didn’t even take an advanced course in 6th grade! Did that stop me from making honor roll? From becoming passionate about my education? From taking almost all honors and AP classes in high school? From scoring advanced on my MCAS? For graduating in the top 25% of my class? From getting into Roger Williams University? From making Dean’s List every semester? From aspiring to become an educator? From passing my MTELS? No. I was not invited to partake in the 6th grade advanced courses at NRMS but that did not deter me because I had a series of “regular” classroom teachers who inspired me to think critically, creatively, and excited me about learning. In general, there can always be uninspiring teachers in “high” level courses and there can be inspiring teachers who teach “low” level courses.

Mr. MacBride’s argument offers absolutely no evidence that would convince any average reader to listen to his point. In an emotional haste, he makes entirely irrelevant points such as, “didn’t Nauset just hire a new superintendent”? In what universe does that mean that schools should NOT be making forward progress and changes?  His argument follows a very weak logical train of thought.

The real issue is about the actual practice of grouping students by ability versus differentiating instruction. Grouping students by ability inherently harms students and hinders their self-esteem. Grouping tells students in the lower group that they are not important, and those in the higher group are isolated and separated from their peers. This can be especially detrimental when a student is adjusting to a new school and a new peer group. Differentiated instruction aims to play to all students’ individual strengths and help improve all students’ weaknesses. Learning is such a unique experience that teaching should be tailored to help fit each student’s unique learning style. Some students are better at communicating verbally, some by writing, some are artistic, and some are kinesthetic (hands-on) learners. Differentiated instruction takes into consideration all of these strengths and weaknesses, and provides instructional opportunities that allow ALL students to succeed and challenge themselves.

Yes, parents’ allegiance is obviously to their children, I commend Mr. MacBride for this. And yes, parents will continue to send their students to the “best schools” no matter where they are. The issue here is that by insinuating that getting rid of an advanced course at the sixth grade level will somehow make NRMS an inferior school is ludicrous. Ultimately, we all know that NRMS teachers, staff, and administration have the best intentions for our students and try to do what is best for them. And we all have seen how Nauset Schools have actually outperformed other schools on the Cape. I do not see this trend changing anytime soon because I know we have primarily high-quality, caring educators at Nauset.

Bottom line: parents who have “horses in the race” need to be supporting and collaborating with schools, teachers, and educators in productive manners, not throwing “gas on the flames” by bashing them in an online blog.

For those interested in more information about tracking, grouping, and differentiated instruction, I recommend the following resources:

Melissa Ericson
Brewster, MA

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