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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

Dyanthe’s Weekly Letters

Week of February 1, 2021

Dear Families,

Schools across the country are working in solidarity this month to launch a shared set of lessons to pursue social and educational equity for Black students.  Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action began in 2019 to affirm Black identities by centering black voices, empowering students, and teaching Black experiences.  We can use these shared resources all year round to support our commitment to anti-racism.  I am sharing a resource, Guiding Principles of the Black Lives Matter Movementby Laleña Garcia, to help you talk with your children about the Black Lives Matter Movement.  For more information and resources, please visit the official BLM at school https://www.blacklivesmatteratschool.com/.

An update about in-person learning:  Fifteen students opted into blended learning beginning in March.  Eighteen indicated they would start in April.  We will need to open a second cohort in Dianne and Oli’s class to maintain social distancing.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

I hope that you take advantage of the half-day to get outside today and enjoy the snow.

Be safe,

Dyanthe

Dyanthe’s Weekly Letters

Week of January 25, 2021

Dear Families,

Last June, our school committed to doing better for all our children by centering anti-racist, social justice work in our school.  This means implementing anti-racist, anti-bias (ABAR) curriculum in all our classrooms all year long.  Anti-bias education is “an approach to teaching and learning designed to increase the understanding of differences and their value to a respectful and civil society, and to challenge stereotyping and all forms of discrimination in schools and communities. It incorporates an inclusive curriculum that reflects diverse experiences and perspectives, instructional methods that advance all students’ learning, and strategies to create and sustain safe, inclusive and respectful learning communities.” 

ABAR cannot live only within classrooms (even if, right now, that means your living room).  Parents also need to talk about bias and racism with their children. Don’t let uncertainty get in the way of these conversations!  Discomfort is an opportunity, and you are your child’s most important teacher.  

Our school is implemented several initiatives and will continue to act to support families’ ABAR work:

  • Our parent coordinator, Denise, will facilitate a support group for parents of color and white parents of children of color.  

  • We are partnering with an ABAR organization to lead parent training. 

  • Parents have created the ABAR social group so parents and teachers can have a critical conversation regarding the ABAR content presented in our TNS classrooms and homes.

  • Cheryl updates anti-racist resources for parents: https://wke.lt/w/s/970iGM.  

  • We will also revisit our Mission statement to reflect our school’s anti-racist, social justice identity.  

Please join or participate in one of our initiatives mentioned above or reach out directly to your child’s teacher if you have any questions about their work.

Warmly,

Dyanthe

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