How can this be? Well first, it’s a magnet school in California founded from the outset on a constructivist philosophy. This means that 1) the parents were aware that it was constructivist when they enrolled their children and 2) as a magnet school, the students are there by choice not by district boundaries—they don’t have to be there.
"At issue is Ronald Reagan Elementary School, a 2-year-old magnet school that uses a multi-age program in which students are placed in classrooms according to their learning styles, interests and abilities rather than their grade."The school was founded on constructivist principles and to change mid-stream would be equivalent to bait-and-switch. Administration needs to listen and respect the parent’s choice of learning environment for their children.
"The school also uses a model of teaching called "constructivism," where the curriculum is presented with an emphasis on big concepts, students' questions are highly valued and pupils are viewed as thinkers with emerging theories about the world. Under the model, students also primarily work in groups."
On a scale from 1-10, the academic state ranking of this school is a “1” and yet the parents are protesting to keep the current principal in place because they fear that the new principal will dismantle the constructivist program. The parents have spoken and don't seem to mind the lack of academic rigor. And most importantly, those that don’t agree can easily change schools.
Of course, administrators are concerned with the dismal test scores and Board President Tom Thomas said:
“The results we saw tell us we have some serious issues with math and English that we can't dismiss," he told the crowd, which filled the district's small board room. "This is no picnic. We have some serious concerns about the instruction going on at Ronald Reagan. ... If everything is just peachy keen with constructivism, why aren't more schools doing it?"While I cannot imagine enrolling my children in such a school, I am not the parent of those children. Those parents may have different objectives for their children when it comes to education than I do.
They said they view the transfer of Richter, who has studied constructivist methods for more than a decade, as the equivalent of killing the magnet school's program.
"People are passionate about what is going on at the school," said parent Steve Tannenbaum in an interview. "We are preparing our kids for life. It is a very special place."
Parent Laurie Reynolds said her children can't wait to get to school every morning."The bottom line is my kids love to go to school," she said in an interview.
If I truly believe that parents should have a say in the education of their children, then by default I have to believe that these parents have a right to constructivist education if they so choose as well.
It does appear, they have chosen constructivism. So much so, that many parents kept their children out of school in protest on 5/29-5/30/2007-- a "sick out" in which at least 25% of students participated. They held a "peaceful protest" and proved that they were passionate and serious about their beliefs. There is little room to doubt where a great number of parents stand on this issue.
It is certainly interesting to see the shoe on the other foot, so to speak, and hear administration trying to rid a school of constructivism instead of vehemently defending it. Perhaps the tide is turning. Dare I hope?
Parents confront trustees over school's fate by: Jennifer Kabbany - Staff Writer, The Californian, an edition of The North County Times