Publisher’s note: This email was sent late on the evening of Friday, October 19, 2018 to every member of the Manchester Board of School Committee. It is published here in its entirety with photos I have added to improve its readability. As a member of the Board of School Committee, I find this information troubling and will be releasing a statement about its content in due time. ~Publius
Dear Board of School Committee Members:
I was made aware of Manchester Proud a short time ago by parents who told me about this new organization. As a former Bedford resident, I have seen how an organization outside the school district could be beneficial to everyone involved in the Manchester public schools. The Bedford Education Foundation has been one of those organizations that has raised funds for expenditures that are not included in the school district budget. The BEF is well–respected and appreciated in the community for that reason. They look at what needs to be supported and funded, then hold fundraisers and events to make it happen. For instance, on their Facebook page, they proudly reminded community members that they worked hard with fundraisers to support French students in a 10-day exchange. The BEF provided the funding to get all foreign language program exchanges funded. Adding foreign language to the elementary school curriculum is what one Manchester parent said she would like to have added to the elementary grades.
Manchester Proud has the capacity to make a significant and positive impact on the school district. That’s something we should all support. I’m not surprised that people in the community want to add their time and talent to an organization that wants to help the school district meet some of its needs. My concern is with what appears to be a political influence within the organization. That influence now seems to be directing expenditures that could be used for genuine needs that parents have identified.
It is critical for Manchester Proud
I ask for independent research because other districts in New Hampshire are implementing this experimental education reform. The Atlantic reported on this experimental method back in 2014.“What Happens When Students Control Their Own Education? When a New Hampshire district found itself struggling with low test scores and high turnover, it made a radical decision: Flip the traditional model and let kids take over the classrooms.“ Since then, I’ve received numerous complaints from Pittsfield parents explaining how the student–led discussions become sidetracked, and how so
Pittsfield test scores do not provide any indication that this experimental model has had any significant impact on students in the high school:
Manchester Proud has also come to the BOSC to advocate for joining the Council of Great City Schools (CGCS). During the discussion with some of the BOSC members about the $30,000.00 membership fee, Mr. Brensinger indicated that he would not consider the request by Manchester parents who want funding to go towards materials in the classroom. Instead he said this kind of significant expenditure should be used to pay a membership fee to CGCS. I understand this is an effort to design a strategic plan, but if that plan is going to revolve around unproven or disproven politically–contrive
CGCS is a political organization funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to “promote and coordinate successful implementation of the new common core standards in major urban public school systems nationwide ” The Gates Foundation lists CGCS as a partner on their web site.
No one on the BOSC asked for any proof that CGCS has a track record of success. After reviewing the CGCS web site, I could not find any peer–reviewed independent studies that showed membership in this
A case in point comes in a 2014 CGCS report regarding the public schools in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The reports states: ” The Albuquerque Public Schools District has embarked on an ambitious reform agenda which includes the transition to Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and a renewed focus on improving student achievement by closing the achievement gap. The district’s strategic plan included improving Academic Achievement. However, if you look at their NAEP scores from 2017 they show Albuquerque students either making no progress or falling further behind their peers:
If the Manchester BOSC is to join a political education organization, it is critical that the BOSC look for peer–reviewed studies that show the organization has contributed to some measure of academic success in public education.
After leaving the Manchester Proud meeting, I posted a question on a Manchester School Facebook Page. I asked parents what five things they’d like to see changed or improved in the school district. No one mentioned a desire to see the district become a member of a political organization whose main objective is to implement Common Core in schools. No one mentioned wanting a political organization to influence teaching methods.
Parents did say that they wanted:1) Bullying addressed2) Consistent curriculum across the district3) Foreign Language added in the elementary school4) Implement a complementary Spelling and Grammar curriculum5) Get a systematic Math book that can be used starting on page 16) Stop social promotions7) Advance children to the next subject when they’ve mastered the content8) Get our teachers a signed contract9) Add tech resources10) Get rid of Common Core and go back to common sense11) IEPs must be followed12) Common Core has to go13) Bring back unified arts in the Middle School14) Updated textbooks15) Leveling for all subjects16) Get rid of standardized testing17) Make sure students are competent in the subject matter before advancingI’m sharing this because after attending Manchester Proud’s meeting yesterday, their associations with pro-Common Core political organizations indicates there may be a conflict ahead. These are concerns that the Bedford Education Foundation has avoided by making sure the individuals running the organization are focused on the needs of the teachers and students. Having a similar support group in Manchester can offer parents and teachers the much–needed support that they have been wanting. Please consider your support carefully as you go forward.Sincerely,Ann Marie BanfieldEducation LiaisonCornerstone Policy Research