Citizen Comment – Shannon Windsor – May 19, 2016

My name is Shannon Windsor. I have two children in the HCS system, one in elementary and one in high school. I have been very active in my children’s schools for many years, serving in various positions, including PTA president.

When the computers were issued 4 years ago, parents and teachers were repeatedly reassured that the laptops would be used as teaching tools in the classroom, not to replace textbooks or any other teaching method. We agree that having computers available for classroom learning is important in our current world of technology, but I feel it is vital to have a variety of resources, methods, and tools available, including textbooks in EVERY classroom!

As time has passed by, the laptops have been overused and now parents and teachers have been told , that with the exception of a classroom set available for check out in the library, ALL textbooks will be removed from the schools. If we already have textbooks in the schools, why not leave them for resources, rather than store them out of reach offsite?? The thought of NO textbooks being readily available to our students is hard to believe!!!

Children already spend too much time staring at a computer screen, TV, or other electronic device. Studies conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders and obesity. The amount of screen time isn’t the only issue with the student laptops. As a parent and substitute teacher, I see the daily struggles the children have with computer issues…computers not charging properly, students not being able to log on to Schoolnet or other programs, students being kicked off in the middle of a math or writing assignment and losing all their work to that point, or computers glitching and shutting down in the middle of a test…we saw quite a bit of this during End of Course exams and the ACT Aspire tests given in the last two weeks. There is SO MUCH valuable teaching time lost due to computer issues!

Teachers and students need to have a very high confidence in the digital curriculum and hardware provided that works properly and efficiently the vast majority of the time in order to do their jobs well and for students to be successful!

Computers should not be a hindrance or distraction to the learning process. Children have different learning styles and academic needs and a variety of teaching tools should be available.

In order to provide an exceptional learning environment for ALL, in the end, NO matter what methods or materials are used, the litmus test should always be “is what we are doing in the best interests of our students”?

Thank you!

– Shannon Windsor

Citizen Comment – Lisa Fiske Schrimsher – May 19, 2016

Dear Superintendent and Board of Education,

My child was excited to go to school this past fall. She couldn’t wait to start Kindergarten.

I worry her enthusiasm will be buried under a system that forces her to see only in two dimensions, enthusiasm buried under a barrage of worksheets and topics being briefly covered before moving onto the next one. It won’t matter if she masters the material because it’s time for another concept. How much excitement is there when emphasis is placed on the ability to regurgitate information rather than discovering how to critically think? Even in Kindergarten, art and music are taught once every two weeks although research tells us how critical this is to early development. She is part of a system that says it is better to learn more complex material at an early age, despite evidence to the contrary.

How much longer will she clamor to go to school when there is a curriculum that has a student writing sentences before teaching her to read, learning what a preposition is before she can spell that word and getting an outpouring of tests and grades before she understands she is being evaluated? The focus is on a curriculum that is tailored to meeting test scores instead of educating children – a curriculum that does not allow for inquiry based learning and does not allow a teacher to view students as individuals, only data points. Why should there be joy in learning when it does not show up on a spread sheet? Why teach my child to love education if it takes away time to prepare for the next test–the only benchmark that appears to matter?

Although I personally think grading kindergartners is absurd, our daughter has worked hard for the semester and done very well. Kindergarteners are made to take the schoolnet tests without any assistance. Because of this, grades fell from the low 90’s to the upper 70’s. Is this really a good measurement of a child’s comprehension? Also, two days of tests almost negated a semester’s worth of grades. Is this how we want our children to be introduced to school?

She will soon have her head buried in an iPad even if that is not the best way for her to learn. Many schools are now realizing technology is one tool among many and should not be the sole conduit for learning. She will not receive this type of balanced education driven by inspired teachers that have some flexibility in how to implement dynamic lesson plans. She might be creative and she might learn differently, but she must learn to conform, to be like the other students because any deviation is not tolerated.

A multitude of studies show that young children learn best through play that allows them to problem solve later as they experience the world around them. I wonder how much room there is for play in my daughter’s regimented day. How many tools are in the classroom that rely on her imagination and allow her to decide what the answer will be? Instead, she is learning to fill in the blank and check the box, but what will happen when college comes and the whole test is a blank, there is no multiple choice and there is no right or wrong answer?

My child is excited to go to school…but for how much longer?”

– Signed, a concerned Father, Read by Lisa Fiske Schrimsher