No wonder Sid Freund wants to move the goal posts. I would too. After two years of his tenure as superintendent, Greenwich went from being the 41st ranked district in the state to No. 48. I wrote previously that it was unfair to judge his performance after only one year. But after two years, Greenwich is clearly moving in the wrong direction, and the decline is accelerating.
Take the case of Dundee School, the poster child of Freund’s campaign to move Greenwich to an International Baccalaureate curriculum favored by many parents.
Let’s go to the scoreboard:
- Dundee has been dropping like a rock for five years since it was ranked the fifth best elementary school in Connecticut according to a compilation of the math and reading scores of third and fourth graders. In 2006-07, Dundee was by far the highest ranking Greenwich school at any level. Eastern was the No. 10 middle school in the state and Riverside was ranked 19.
Today, Dundee is ranked 80, having dropped 34 places in one year! In 2007-08, it went from No. 5 to No. 30. In 2008-09, it went from No. 30 to No. 44. In 2009-10, it went to No. 46. And now it has tumbled to No. 80.
The thing about scores is that they don’t lie. About half of the 11 Greenwich elementary schools did better or worse in a ranking of their March 2011 CMT test scores for reading and math. Ham Ave was up 36 positions to 257, New Leb up 82 spots to 264, Parkway dropped 40 to 159, North Street up 28 to 103, Glenville down 78 to 198, North Mianus down 48 to 67, Riverside up 17 to No. 9, Old Greenwich up 17 to 46, Dundee down 34 to No. 80, Julian Curtiss down 29 to 184 and Co Cob up 25 to 150. Click here for all the scores
Of all the schools, only Dundee has had a consistent year-over-year drop for five years.
I know we will not get an honest analysis from this lame-duck administration. But after Freund leaves, the question remains whether the BOE, which has been hypnotized by Freund’s prestidigitation, will still try and push IB onto unwitting Greenwich taxpayers at a cost of millions to change curriculum and retrain teachers. The IB curriculum is education eye candy, with a powerful allure. It comes with buzzy words like “critical thinking” and “social-emotional learning.” It lets us all off the hook. Instead of teachers being held to performance standards and instead of parents told to read books to their children, it’s okay to let our kids sit in front of the tube and veg out. Vegging out is good. Self direction is good. Homework is bad. (Is it any wonder that Greenwich teachers are among Freund’s biggest defenders?)
As a consequence, the Dundee results speak for themselves.
Johnny and Muffy can come home and report what fun they had in school because they got to “self discover” and talk about how volcanoes were formed.
But Johnny can’t recite his ABCs and Muffy hasn’t moved beyond 3s in her multiplication table. And neither can write a lick.
Is this what we want? Luckily the RTC has given us choices this fall. We can actually make a difference and vote in enough informed board members who will help put an end to this insanity.
It will still be an uphill fight, especially with current BOE chair so intransigent and so revisionistic with his manipulation of facts and history. In his Sunday letter to the editor, he admonished GT columnist Bob Horton who had asked for his resignation. The BOE chair cited a town attorney opinion Feb. 3 saying that he did not legally bind the town when he wrote a letter to the IB organization committing the town to IB implementation. What he conveniently left out was that the same town attorney, upon reflection, came back to the school board on Feb. 24 to advise the BOE to retroactively “ratify” support for the BOE chairman’s actions. Clearly, the town attorney, who is obssessed with the culpability of the town in lawsuits, saw enough of a red flag to advise the board to prophylactically go back and protect themselves with a retroactive vote. You may see the entire board meeting on video by clicking here
That was the lightning rod that thundered BOE member Marianna Ponns Cohen into her watchdog role. The BOE chair and Freund were fast moving toward implementation of IB – not only in the middle schools – but in the high school as well. There was no serious discussion or analysis. IB is a proven resource drain and would dilute the town’s Advanced Placement programs. None of this was ever vetted among parents and taxpayers.
And when Freund resigned in a huff, the BOE chair went into serious spin mode. He charged Ponns Cohen with badgering Freund with as many as 4,000 emails. The truth – after a GT investigation – was under 300 emails directly to Freund.
He staged a pro-Freund rally and elicited the support of the considerable PR machine of the PTAC/teachers’ union.
But weeks later, as more damning information about the Freund administration emerged, Ponns Cohen began to take on a new, burnished image as the only honest broker on the board (along with Peter Scherr).
The culmination of this turnaround was last Wednesday night when the RTC – in a stunning rebuke to the rogue efforts of Peter Tesei and Jim Campbell – voted overwhelmingly to endorse Ponns Cohen. Several prominent Republicans actually took to the mike to publicly hail her work. It was the first time I read any public quote of support for Ponns Cohen. The tide is clearly turning as more and more residents understand the issues and develop an awareness that will be tested in November.
Meanwhile, Tesei continued to get bad advice from people like PTA president Sue Rogers and BOE member Michael Bodson. It puzzled me why Tesei, who has a serious lock for re-election, would get involved. Maybe he’s bored. But my advice to him is that the next time he chooses to challenge the Republican leadership by nominating a rogue candidate: make sure your candidate (Lisa Harkness) shows up. Not only was she not in the same zip code. She wasn’t even in the same country. Sources said she was in Europe. Maybe she was researching IB curricula.
After 10 years of IB at Dundee, no one should be surprised that reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic as a core curriculum has taken a back seat to some existential, amorphous social alchemy that is difficult to manage and impossible to measure. I am happy for Dundee parents who are pleased with their educational product, but let’s cut, cap and balance that decline in core academics before it infects the rest of the system.