Forum allowed open dialogue for parents and administrators

Parents, administrators and Redding Board of Education members sat at a community roundtable discussion on personalized learning at Redding schools on Wednesday, Dec. 5.

The discussion came from a survey sent out by the board asking parents if they felt learning was personalized for their child, or not.

The open forum dialogue allowed parents to ask questions and give suggestions to administrators about their child’s education and in return they received answers.

Mike D’Agostino and Kim Ajavananda, board members, said the night went well and were happy with the response from parents.

Brad Dudas, a parent, asked why John Read Middle School doesn’t have a challenge program. There is a challenge program at Redding Elementary School and at Joel Barlow High School, but not a specific challenge program at the middle school, he said.

Diane Martin, John Read Middle School principal, said challenge and enrichment is done in the classroom.

“Students have varying interests and there are a lot of opportunities for students to learn together and teach each other,” she said.

The challenge program at Redding Elementary School is to spark the imagination of students and to inspire learning. Kids then keep challenging themselves when they attend Barlow by taking high level courses and are given the opportunity to go further, said Mr. D’Agostino.

“John Read Middle School gives them the tools to pursue something that does spark an interest and encourages them more along the way,” said Ms. Martin.

Sara Sobel, a board member, said it was more logical to label the challenge program at the elementary school and not at the middle school.

The partnership at John Read Middle School with the teacher and student shows differentiation happening, she said. Differentiation is when students are taught the same subject in different methods.

“When students get to the high school, the student is choosing [courses] and is self directing. I see it as a continuum and it flows nicely — at least in my experience,” said Ms. Sobel.

Dr. Bernard Josefsberg, superintendent for Easton, Redding and Region 9 school districts, asked the parents if their children are engaged during class or are considered a “self learner.”

Mary Dale Lancaster, a parent, said it should be based on the teacher. If the teacher is charismatic, they keep the kids enthused rather than a teacher who just rolls around in their chair and teaches directly from the book — not engaging.

Ms. Lancaster also brought up her concern for a student’s reading level.

“Their reading level is not up to par when they get to the high school,” she said. “If they can’t read, they can’t engage in class.”

She said that fluency and comprehension are missing.

There should be constant reading instruction across the board, she said. “Everyone deserves a good education,” Ms. Lancaster said. “Some kids give up and develop behavior problems.”

Ms. Martin agreed.

“They do well on the CMT (Connecticut Mastery Test), but that doesn’t mean they are where they need to be with reading,” said Ms. Martin.

At the middle school, students who struggle with reading participate in the reading workshop and small group learning, which is done partially through scientific research-based interventions, said Ms. Martin.

“We do need to use other indicators,” she said.

Another parent said positive reinforcement is missing in the classroom.

Teachers should be encouraged to put on the report card positive and negative comments. Make sure where they have success is pointed out in a concrete way, said the parent.

Dr. Josefsberg ended the meeting by asking parents main points that can be improved on at the schools.

The first is to evaluate the teachers in some way because teachers have a major impact on students’ learning. Another suggestion was to use the website better by posting homework and information that will keep students on track and organized. Parents were also interested in foreign language being taught in the younger grades and focuses on good teacher training.

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