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The Parent’s Notebook



By Aminisha Black

Regaining the Skill “To Think”
In New York City Chancellor Klein released report cards for the city’s schools.  Mayor Bloomberg’s calling the report cards “The best way to hold a principal’s feet to the fire” is disturbing since the flaws and lack of transparency leaves serious questions about the effectiveness of progress measurement.   Is the purpose of the reports keeping principals in check or ensuring that students get a good education?
What is a good education?   Parents especially need to distinguish  holding educators accountable for students being engaged in activities that promote social and academic development, skills in thinking and problem-solving and holding them accountable for their school getting “A” or “B” on standardized tests.   There is a difference.  Even if the formula was unflawed, judging students by standardized tests results is a complete negation of the child’s ability and most likely accounts for the lack of enthusiasm among students, especially those students who would benefit from Dr. Howard Gardner’s work on Multiple Intelligences.   Our children need a curriculum that’s designed for them to experience individual mastery through collaboration with others, has them exploring, solving problems and gaining real-life experiences with the subject matter. We want to end their deaths in wars, their filling the jails, their being killed on our streets.  We want them taught skills that prepare them to be self-sufficient citizens who think about and participate in activities that make their communities and the world better. We want them taught how to think, not what to think. 
Some concerns about the formula that yielded the report card results: 
“The report card relies too heavily on test scores (85%).  Math and ELA are the tests, ignoring other factors that make a great school; for example, whether a school has enrichments such as music, art, dance, chess and language classes; whether it encourages children to learn to work cooperatively; whether children are making academic progress based on measures other than test scores.”
There are questions about how the peer groups were constructed.   Is it fair to group and  judge the performance of  schools with huge differences in  populations – or combining percentages of African-American and Hispanics as interchangeable; i.e., as a school with 59% Hispanic and 1% African-American a match for 59%African-American and 1% Hispanic.  Questions about factors that impact scores that lie outside of the school, such as percentage of Asian students whose families are organized in a way that extends the school day at home.
These are only a few of the questions. Next time, we’ll look more closely at schools and more of the problems with the formula. Our children deserve more than what the current system offers.  PN will be listing programs that acknowledge all intelligences and impact ELA and Math scores. Give your child the gift of recognizing his strengths and arming her with the spirit to master tests.  Most of all, watch for opportunities to problem-solve at home with real problems.  Encourage them to think of possible solutions.  Learning takes place in the real world.
Comments and questions:
PN Alerts! Activities are in Bklyn unless otherwise noted.
*Sew What?  Create a Bag in Basic Sewing Class with Denise Beckford – 369 Madison St.   917-701-9864 – Saturday, Dec. 15th (2 pm)  Recommended for girls 8 years old and over.
*BPL – Bedford Branch, 496 Franklin Ave., 718-623-0012 Friday, Dec. 7th – 4 PM -For Teens – Mind Your Money Workshop –     Making a budget and sticking to it; learn skills for smart shopping.  For 6 – 12- year-olds – Sing along with the Kaleidoscope Band.
*Master Sabu’s Humble Dojang of Martial Arts,  997 Fulton St., 718-398-7789 – Teaching  youth  Self-Defense Skills and Child Safety, Courage to stand up for what is right, even if they stand alone, Patience to handle life’s daily challenges, Courtesy and Respect to build strong relationships with adults and peers.
*N.S.P. Youth, Inc.’s calling all youth performers -children (from age 3), teens and young adults. Weekly rehearsals and youth activities.  25 years of youth programming. For info contact Non-Stop Production at 718-415-3474 or e-mail:
*Essay Contest – “The Living Legacy of Malcolm X”, sponsored by The Malcolm X Commemoration Committee and the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center.  Elementary (4th & 5th grade), Middle School (6th -8th) and High School (9th – 12th). For details contact Iyalula Ferguson by e-mail: or write the committee at PO Box 34008, Jamaica, NY 11434.

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