Standing Up for Newport’s Students

Below is a Letter to the Editor in tonight’s edition of our local newspaper, The Newport Daily News.  I wrote this last week shortly after learning our seven-year-old son is a full year behind grade level in reading.

I wrote this letter for one reason only: While our family is fortunate we have the resources, stamina, and expertise to address this unfortunate situation, we know not everyone does.

That our son should not be in this situation is clear.  That we only just learned of the extent of it is concerning.   Yet the more salient questions are How many more of Newport’s students are struggling?  How many are behind a grade level or more?  What tests are used to measure students’ reading comprehension?  What do the scores mean?  How are they reported?  What resources are available to students who are not on grade level?

And, perhaps, for me, the most important: What can I do–as one parent, one individual–to help support all of Newport’s parents and students? 

We’ve all heard the saying, Be the change you wish to see.

There is now no question of where I need to be.

This is not the easiest letter I have ever written, but it is one that desperately  needs to be written—not just on behalf of my son but on behalf of all children enrolled in Newport Public Schools who are not reading on grade level. It pains me because in writing it, I must admit to two things: (1) my child is at present not reading on grade level and should be; and (2) he is most assuredly not the only one.

Just seven days before the conclusion of the academic year my husband and I learned that despite a Personal Literacy Plan being in place for our son, a document that is supposed to ensure the implementation of the interventions necessary to bring a student to grade level, our son had shown barely any discernible growth over the course of the year. At the end of last year, our son had met his benchmarks and was reading on grade level; and at the conclusion of first grade, an entire year later, he was essentially idling at the same point.

He has been in a classroom in Newport Public Schools for the last 180 days and has shown such insignificant growth that, as a parent and  taxpayer, I find myself asking not only why—why has our son’s education seemingly stagnated—but how: How could this happen? And, of course, why  did we not know the severity of the situation until  June?

While this is surely a major and personal concern for our son and our family, it is an issue that should also concern all parents, all  residents of Newport, and all taxpayers. In an era of severely decreased funding  for public schools and rising academic expectations, assessment data that shows a student—any student–not showing growth is alarming.

Research supports and common sense dictates that young students who are not reading on grade level have an increasingly difficult time accessing knowledge. The subjects that inspire and incite the curiosity of  children—science, history, storytelling—remain shrouded behind a complex vocabulary and sentence structure that tragically eludes them. And as they get older, if their deficiencies in reading follow them, it only gets worse.

 Newport Public Schools claims it gets results for its  students and offers an “outstanding” education to all. I am asking all of my fellow Newport parents to take a long, hard look at their child’s current reading scores—today—and ask themselves: “Is our son or daughter receiving the outstanding education promised, the one s/he deserves? Is Newport Public Schools getting results for our child? And, if not, what is the plan to ensure they  do?”

 It is their promise and your child’s right.


5 thoughts on “Standing Up for Newport’s Students

  1. Sam, I know you are upset, but remember Edgar has had a hard 2 years.With all his testing has he been in school 180 days? Also didn’t he have a sub for half the year? It is hard for kids to go from one teacher to different one,the rules all change. Kids are amazing and he has all summer to get there. I feel Newport’s Students are in good hands as long as Newport parents stand behind Newport school teachers everyone will be o.k.l How about volunterring for an after school reading club!

    • Thanks for your note! I agree 100% that Newport’s teachers have all the heart and all the talent in the world; so the question remains: Where is it breaking down? And, most importantly, what can parents do to help institute change so that all students will be okay?

  2. I know nothing on Newport’s teachers, so I will not comment one way or the other on that, but I will say this: In every town,and in every school, ALL parents, teachers, and administrators need to constantly ask themselves if they are doing enough. Is there anything they can do better? How can we ensure EVERY child reaches their potential, even when they have individual challenges?

    Admittedly, teachers have taken some blame they don’t deserve. And teachers are underpaid across the country. However, Teachers and Parents and Administrators STILL need to look critically at what more can be done for kids, especially kids with challenges. but also gifted kids and on track kids, who often get sidelined. Bottom line, teachers are not solely to blame, nor is blame a productive tool. But teachers still need to ensure every kid is progressing and if not, they need to sound the alarm FAR before the end of the year. Assuming that all teachers are beyond reproach and that their performance cannot be questioned, is a recipe for disaster. No other profession gets a free pass on evaluations of their performance, and teaching is no different. My child has had many amazing teachers, and I applaud them loudly. He has also had a couple teachers that do not care enough, and I also speak up loudly. So should we all.

I would love to hear your thoughts . . .

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