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Dyanthe’s Weekly Letters

Week of March 8, 2021

Dear Families,

Sorry... I forgot to post on Monday! ; )

I want to highlight current work happening in classrooms because it illustrates how students and teachers create curriculum that is responsive to the classroom community’s needs and interests, the events in our world and is rooted in social justice.

  • Students learned about change-makers like Martin Luther King Jr., Georgia Gilmore, Rosa Parks, Fred Hampton, and Wangari Maathai in a kindergarten and first-grade classroom. The class then thought about how they could be change-makers in our community and decided to make ‘The Little Free Food Pantry.’  Families in the neighborhood can take what they need and leave what they can.  Mara, one of their teachers, built the pantry with her woodworking teacher, and the class organized donations.  I have attached pictures of the pantry, which is in the 3rd Street Garden, and the posters students made to advertise in the school and neighborhood. 

  • Students read biographies about people who have shared their passions and light in the world in a second and third-grade class. The students were especially captivated by the story of Arab architect Zaha Hadid, who designed buildings inspired by the natural world and faced sexism and racism in having her buildings built despite winning multiple competitions. The class decided to design and build a city of their own (on a small scale).  Last week, an architect came to present various buildings inspired by different purposes. In the end, the teachers chose food (this is another class study this year) as the theme, and the students have been designing buildings inspired by food.  This coming week, TNS parent David Stadler will come to speak to them about building our designs!

  • A fourth and fifth-grade class is beginning the read-aloud, How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle.  It is a Choctaw story about a boy’s experience on the Trail of Tears, which they have been studying in Social Studies.  As a part of this study, the class has a virtual field trip scheduled with the National Museum of the American Indian. Museum educators will speak to the class about the Native American experience during the Removal Act of 1830 time period. 

TNS offers a progressive education model that values student intellectual and emotional development and encourages students to take active roles in their learning.  This rich environment would not be possible if not for our teachers and our school’s commitment to providing authentic and meaningful learning experiences for children.  And it is not possible when teachers have to balance the demands of preparing students for the State tests.  At most public schools, test prep forms a significant part of the class curriculum, especially at this time of year.  Students learn how to fill out bubble sheets; teachers focus closely on materials covered in the tests; and there is little time for open, explorative, authentic learning.  Here are some essential links to help you make your decision about opt-in out of the NY State tests this year:

Warm Regards,

Dyanthe

News & Announcements

Prospective Family Tours

To sign-up for March 16th’s tour:   bit.ly/tnstourmarch16

To sign-up for March 23rd’s tour: bit.ly/tnstourmarch23

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Dyanthe’s Weekly Letters

Week of March 1, 2021

Dear Families,

It is family conference week.  3rd, 4th, and 5th-grade families, please speak with your child’s teacher(s) about your intentions to opt-out of the State tests during your family conference this week so that we can plan accordingly.  Please note, there has been no guidance about how schools will administer the tests yet.  

I am “retweeting” the Chancellor’s statement about the state tests this year:  “As an educator, I would say to parents, there is an opt-out, and if there is ever a time to consider whether that opt-out makes sense for you, this is the time.  We do not want to impose additional trauma on students that have already been traumatized.”  It is astonishing that when schools are deservedly being asked to rethink grading and attendance policies in response to the pandemic, the state and federal governments are mandating testing this year.  You can read the entire article here.  

At most public schools, test prep forms a significant part of the class curriculum. Students learn how to fill out bubble sheets; teachers focus closely on materials covered in the tests; and there is little time for open, explorative, authentic learning. At TNS, by contrast, students and teachers offer a progressive model of education that values student intellectual and emotional development and encourages students to take active roles in their learning.  We encourage you to watch these videos of TNS parents and teachers talking about authentic assessment, education, and state testing.

We have also provided some essential links to help you make your decision:

Opting into blended learning in April:  This is the last chance to let us know if you intend to begin in-person learning this school year (remember, you can opt into remote at any time).  Blended learning for new students will start the week of April 12, 2021.  If you do not submit a survey, your child will remain in 100% remote learning.  You do not need to complete this survey if your child is currently attending in-person.  Please fill out the survey here.  The final day to submit the survey is Friday, March 19.

With love,

Dyanthe

Dyanthe’s Weekly Letters

Week of February 22, 2021

Dear Families,

Last year, the NY State Ed Department identified our school as in need of Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) for the 2019-20 school year based on the 2018-19 performance of one or more student “accountability subgroups” on the state tests.  We have a minimal number of students in each subgroup because approximately 80% of TNS students opt out of the state tests each year, and in fact, the state needs to use three years of test data to create subgroups of at least 30 students.  As a result of changes in how the state calculates opt-outs, schools with high opt-out numbers are penalized.  

Parents have chosen our school because of our teaching and learning approach, which includes not interrupting rich and meaningful curriculum to do months of test prep.  Many of our parents have taken an active and outspoken stance to reject the state tests, as is their right.  Of course, we’re not perfect.  We are continually working to improve instruction through on-going professional development.  We also use multiple “data sources” to inform our work with children.  But the state testing data is not one of them.  Moreover, state test data from 27 (out of 117) children who did no test prep cannot cull meaningful information about our school.

One consequence of our TSI status is that the city has intensified scrutiny of school-wide goals, as detailed in our Comprehensive Education Plan.  We meet quarterly to monitor progress towards these goals.  

Please join the PTA meeting tomorrow at 5:00 PM for a critical community discussion about TSI, the implications of this designation, and how we can advocate for our children, values, and school.

Warmly,

Dyanthe

Dyanthe’s Weekly Letters

Week of February 8, 2021

Dear Families,

Teachers send home narrative reports today.  They are a little different this year because we don’t know children in the same ways as we know them when we are with them in the classroom full-time.  Besides sharing information about your child’s progress in math, literacy, and social studies, teachers have adapted sections to address each child’s engagement in small and large group meetings, comfort with technology, and work habits.  Please let us know if you have any comments, questions, or feedback to share with your child’s teacher.

Around this time of year, families often have questions about reading instruction and development.  At TNS, reading levels are only one tool teachers use when guiding children to choose books.  A child will read books that are too easy, just right, and too hard during a year.  For example, a child interested in animals may be so motivated by that interest to read a book on animals at a higher level.  Likewise, many strong readers also are drawn to graphic novels.  Graphic novels are among the highest-circulating items in our library!  I am sharing the document, “Your Child’s Pathway to Learning to Read at TNS,” that describes our philosophy and approach to reading and learning to read created by our School Leadership Team (SLT) a few years ago.

Wishing everyone a good week and Mid-winter break,

Dyanthe

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