Let’s Celebrate and Improve

As many of you are aware, Cumberland made some exciting gains worth celebrating in the most recent NECAP testing. North Cumberland Middle School and Community School were cited as schools with more than 75% of students proficient in both mathematics and reading. BF Norton and Cumberland High School were cited as schools that made significant progress in both mathematics and reading from 2007 to 2010 and Cumberland, as a district, was recognized for having made overall progress from 2007 to 2010 in mathematics and reading. Certainly, those who contributed to these distinctions are deserving of acknowledgement and I, as a parent and school committee member, am grateful. I highly recommend that you read Julia Steiny’s piece from February 20 in which she asks all of us to “take a moment to applaud NECAP successes.”

We must, however, continue to focus on the urgent need for improvement as our results as compared with other states and other nations are reason for alarm and our raw numbers, particularly in math, science, and writing, are far too low at both the state and local level. To give you an example, in Cumberland, 36% of 11th graders are considered proficient in mathematics and at the state level, that number falls to 33%. In science, 20% of the 8th graders at McCourt Middle School are proficient and 31% of the 8th graders at North Cumberland Middle School are proficient; the science proficiency of the state for grade 8 is 22%. In writing, 59% of Cumberland’s 11th graders are proficient in writing, with 51% proficient at the state level. We know that far better results are possible; a quick look at the high performance of Massachusett’s schools tells us that. For a complete look at the school data for the state, Cumberland, or a specific school in Cumberland, go to http://infoworks.ride.ri.gov.
As all of us know, the fiscal crunch we currently face is dire, perhaps unprecedented. That being said, we must increase our energy and commitment around doing the absolute best with what we have. We must become a school community in which everyone is doing their best…and that includes us parents as well!
Engagement in the process and becoming informed is a key piece of parental involvement. For example, many in the community think that the elementary reorganization proposal went away; it didn’t. It was up for discussion last night (Tuesday, March 1) at a special programs subcommittee meeting where about 20 parents as well as school administrators gathered at the high school. A decision was made by the subcommittee (Jeff Mutter, Lisa Beaulieu, and Dan Pedro) to recommend that the proposal be put aside until the entire budget is complete and all expenditures and cuts are known. They do not feel that it would be responsible or wise to vote on a proposal without complete knowledge of the budget projections. The school department expects to have the full budget prepared some time next week.
Mayor McKee has plans to visit every school PTO in town during the coming months and address parents’ questions and concerns regarding the education of their children. The OCYL has helped to arrange the dates for his visits; plan to attend. This is the beginning of the work to foster collaboration and open dialog between the schools, the town, and families.
RI Commissioner of Education, Deborah Gist, will be coming to Cumberland April 5th (rescheduled from a snow cancellation in January.) She will spend the day in the district visiting classes, meeting with teachers, and then be part of a community forum in the evening. Please mark your calendars now. It will be a unique opportunity to hear a presentation about the state of education and also to have your questions and comments addressed.
When the superintendent search process calls for community feedback, please consider participating. Whether by filling out a survey or attending a meeting, your input is an important and integral part of the process.
If you haven’t already, see “Waiting for Superman,” a documentary that addresses the education crisis in our nation. It is available on dvd and on netflix and Blackstone Valley Prep (formerly Democracy Prep) is hosting a screening of the film the evening of March 11th – all are welcome and a panel discussion after the film is planned.
We have a tall mountain to climb but optimism, collaboration, innovation, and hard work will get us there. Please be part of the efforts to improve our children’s education.
What do you think?

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