This letter was prompted by two events. They are the February Board of Education meeting, which we attended, and the statements made by the school superintendent in the February school district’s newsletter.
Our letter covers material we’ve presented before over many years. Because of the importance of this issue, we as taxpayers and, more importantly, as citizens concerned about the public school education of our children, speak out once more. The unacceptable status quo should not be accepted and unchallenged
It’s true to say that focusing attention on this matter is regarded by those who proclaim Brigantine’s school to be “great” as being disloyal to our community. We disagree and ask again: What constitutes a “great” school? What is the school’s prime purpose?
Certainly, it’s teaching all the students the fundamentals of education, English and math. Now however, based on the 2016 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers Business, or PARCC, it’s clear that many Brigantine students are not learning these fundamentals. Except for two bright spots – algebra 1 and fifth-grade English, in every other grade (three through eight) in English and in all grades in math, less than 50 percent of students met grade expectations. This is not being a great school.
Here are the school superintendent’s comments in the newsletter: “Our schools use state assessments test results as one metric in determining the progress of our schools. But there is so much more to who we are and the value of the education that we provide to the whole child. The in-house data gathered on student performance, the programs and course offerings we provide in music, the arts, technology, athletics, and more, the social development programs embedded in our schools, community outreach initiatives, and more are all part of the education we provide to children. As always, we are Brigantine, and we are proud of our students and our schools.”
However well-intentioned and interesting the above program might be, it is a dismissal of serious academic problems. It de-emphasizes the primary purpose of a school to prepare students with a solid foundation for future learning. It leads parents to think their kids are doing well, when many aren’t learning what they need to know.
The February Board of Education meeting was disappointing but also enlightening as to the board’s attitude and procedure. It offered no coherent explanation for why Brigantine has the highest administrative costs per student in Atlantic County. Overall, the tone of the board members is a dismissive and unresponsive attitude to the public. They are way behind the times in transparency and respect for the concerns of the people they represent and serve.
They say they aren’t satisfied with the scores, but the reasons given for them are the same as in previous years.
They are: Many students don’t stay in the school for several years; a high percentage of them are in the free or reduced-charge lunch program; and school is different than before. Yes, all this is true. But Brigantine isn’t unique in these circumstances.
In comparisons with other schools in our district factor group (similar characteristics), Brigantine exceeded the others only three times out of 12 categories.
It appears that our district accepts that many students cannot be taught the fundamentals in their grade levels. So it finds other aspects of being in school to emphasize and to praise.
Where is the accountability for teaching at least the fundamentals to all students?
Brigantine Taxpayers Association
Anne H. Phillips, President