School project will involve parents to boost student achievement

School project will involve parents to boost student achievement

CUMBERLAND - The idea was to develop programming aimed at putting student achievement at McCourt Middle and B.F. Norton Elementary schools on par with the rest of Cumberland.

And backing up the challenge was $100,00 offered in the new town budget.

The money didn't languish.

The principals of the town's southernmost schools were quick this summer to snare it by developing a program they say will enhance parents' ability to help their kids with homework assignments.

It's one step, suggest a the trio of educators - Jason Masterson and Chris Scott, principal and assistant principal of McCourt, and Antonio DiManna, principal of Norton - toward closing the achievement gap between the two schools and other parts of Cumberland.

The funding was authorized by the Town Council in June at the request of Mayor Daniel McKee, who has been trying for more than a decade to partner with schools on after-school programming.

This program will begin with a "multi-purpose media center" based at B.F. Norton, where students and parents will have access to "state-of-the-art technology accessibility for families and students both during and after school."

Here's what's planned:

For students, the target population will be getting additional resources that give them more frequent and more intensive exposure to reading and math skills. The educators said the 37 families with children in both schools, about 74 to 76 kids in all, make a perfect starting group.

For their parents, a series of "curricular-driven workshops" will enhance understanding about what their children are learning so they may better support that learning.

As the program continues, the hope is to partner, too, with the Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland-Lincoln.

The media center at B.F. Norton will be available both before and after school, according to the plan, and provide resources not available at home, filling a gap that's "an obstacle for a large segment of our parent-family community," says the program proposal.

Some 49 percent of students at McCourt and Norton fall into what the federal government considers poverty level.

The plan proposes that the targeted in-school instruction and after-school media center support will lead to improvement that can be demonstrated using assessment tools.

The educators note that studies show the earlier parent involvement begins, the more powerful the effects. Further, "the most consistent predictor of a child's academic success are parent expectations of the child's academic attainment."

Parents of high-achieving students set higher standards for the children's education activities than parent of low-achieving students, say the educators.

DiManna calls the project "an opportunity to share with parents what happens during school all day." And he says getting the parents onboard means kids will get a "double dose" of classwork - during the school day and after school with parents.

Masterson noted that compared to their parents' days in schools, today's children "are asked to think differently."

Scott calls it "deeper thinking at an earlier age" to lay the foundation for middle and high school academics.

McKee has been a long advocate of an extended learning day and credits a longer learning day for the success of the Blackstone Valley Academy, even though a high percentage of students come from non-English speaking homes and poverty.

"I do believe education is a community affair," said McKee. The town as a "very active partner" is consistent, he says, with the Education Declaration that school and town leaders signed in 2012.

Supt. Phil Thornton said he has no complaints about the town's control of the purse strings on this project.

"I'll take the money any way I can get it," he told The Breeze. "I'm always happy to get money."


This new program, 100% funded by Cumberland tax payers, will not only provide “workshops” for PARENTS of 37 families, but will also completely fund a “media center” , purportedly to provide resources “not available at home”, open ONLY to them BEFORE and AFTER school?? First of all, WHO KNOWS what resources are available to these families at home? Furthermore, what equipment will this “media center” be offering that the PUBLIC LIBRARY doesn’t already? My guess would be that, if these families are not using the “media resources” at the library, then they will probably not use them at the school either. Has anyone given thought to WHO will be responsible for this new “media center”? Has a security plan been formulated? We only have to go back a few years to remember the THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS of equipment that disappeared from CHS. HOW MUCH WILL SECURITY COST? Will school personnel be monitoring these parent “workshops” and this “media center”? If yes, then will they be VOLUNTEERING THEIR TIME? My guess is that they will not be. HOW MUCH WILL IT COST TO STAFF THESE PROGRAMS AND MONITOR THE FACILITIES? Has the cost for the additional utilities been figured in to the cost of these new programs? Once again, it appears that money was approved before anyone knew what was required! And to be honest, I have never understood the reasoning behind trying to enhance the educational experience for those who show no initiative to do better on their own. I mean, shouldn’t the PRIMARY effort be to inspire those students (and parents) who have shown a propensity to excel? Shouldn’t we be trying to make our BEST students better, rather than ignoring them in favor of supporting the students that appear to be the least motivated to learn. This has been the approach of public education for as long as I can remember…and it makes no sense to me. “Parents of high-achieving students set higher standards for the children's education activities than parent of low-achieving students, say the educators.” WOW! WHAT A REVELATION! So, if I read between the lines, apparently the Cumberland school department is going to be offering a FREE before (AND AFTER!) school PARENTING CLASS, complete with free internet access! When exactly did it become the responsibility of the town’s tax payers to fund extracurricular school programs aimed at teaching parents? Maybe the first order of business should be to teach the kids in class during school hours, instead of funding new programs aimed at their apathetic parents? Has anyone thought this through? I didn't think so...