Change brings controversy at Stamford schools

June 15, 2009 3:50:41 PM PDT
Schools in Stamford, Connecticut will no longer divide children by their test scores. The racial make-up of a 6th grade honors class is mostly white kids at Cloonan Middle School in Stamford.

Across the hall, in a classroom of students with mixed academic abilities, the 6th graders are more racially diverse.

The later will soon be the new norm here as district leaders abandon a decades-old academic tracking system that often racially segregated the students.

"Our scores were not improving. Our lower ability groups were not making the grade. We weren't reaching proficiency," said principal David Rudolph.

Mr. Rudolph told us, in just four weeks under the pilot program, he has already seen academic improvement among the lower-ability students and fewer behavior problems. Not everyone likes the new approach.

"There are some children who have certain learning disabilities. Those kids struggle as it is now. How much harder can they work? That just might pull them back more," said Linda Raffaele, a grandparent of one student.

"I think I prefer when students of slightly different abilities are put together," Issac Odeem said.

One parent told us the district's raising of the educational standard impacts not just the students, but also the teachers.

"I think they can adapt easier when it's a group that is getting it all or those who aren't getting it all. It's all the same, but I think it can work," parent Christen Goertel said.

And to make sure it works, teachers now have ongoing training and development to help them master the skills and strategies they need to teach at all academic levels at once.


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