November 22, 2014
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Challenging top students

Elimination of the Accelerated Learning Activities Program (ALAP) from Warwick Schools has prompted a debate over whether higher achieving students should be given special treatment or if they will simply take care of themselves.

Although she believes the ALAP program to be beneficial, School Committee Chair Beth Furtado said she voted to eliminate the program because it only supports close to 300 students, or half of a percent of the student population. She believes that the goal should be to utilize resources to support all students.

While that is a true and admirable goal, how does eliminating a program that is said to renew love of school and learning in 300 students support those 300 students?

Some kids are “gifted and talented” when it comes to learning. They finish math problems on the first try, they read fast and they have an uncanny ability to have their hand raised with the correct answer before the teacher even finishes asking the question. It is the case that other students need more time to learn subjects.

While in a classroom, the “smart kids” will often finish assignments early and then just sit there, waiting for the rest of the class to catch up. They become bored with school and some might even begin to act out, distracting the rest of the class who are still trying to learn the material.

Why can’t those students be given the opportunity to challenge themselves with a program that costs $300,000 in a total budget of $158 million?

Ted Larson, an ALAP PTA volunteer and former PTA president, pointed out that there are honors programs to cater to those high performing students at the junior and senior high school levels, but nothing to support the high performing elementary students with ALAP eliminated.

It was also pointed out by Larson, School Committee member Eugene Nadeau and other parents that without support for their high performing students, parents may move to other districts or send their children to private schools where they believe they will be better supported.

With declining enrollment and school classifications from the Rhode Island Department of Education of Typical or worse, can Warwick schools afford to lose 300 of their best and brightest? We think not.

Although “smart kids” are self-motivators and will work hard to achieve their goals on their own, support from their schools in reaching their highest potential will only motivate them more. The School Committee should restore ALAP or replace it with another program, but it shouldn’t leave the brightest behind for the sake of mediocrity.


Comments
2 comments on this item

Wow, there is a glaring problem that I see with the numbers and it doesn't take a math wizard to see it. The percentage given is not appropriate. If you look at the total population of the schools, 300 of 9600 students is 3%. How do they get .5%????? Maybe they should have the ALAP kids show the school committee and administration how to figure out the percentages, they can certainly get that right. In fact, the school committee shouldn't be comparing the 300 against the total population of the schools as the Secondary schools have honors programs that the elementary students do not have. ALAP is the honors program for the students. I believe there are approximately 4600 elementary students and the 300 students are a part of that budget. So 300 out of 4600 is 6.5% not .5 percent.

So in order to have the budget help more than .5% of the students you need only to do correct math. It is 6.5% of the elementary students.

If they want to look at a fair comparison $325K is 0.0018 of $158,000,000. Alap is less than 2 one-thousandths of a percent of the total budget. They are putting less than 2 one-thousandths of the budget into 6.2% of the elementary kids.

It seems as if ALAP has been cut. I expected the School Committee to meet to discuss it. I guess they chose not to even look into it. At first they said there was no money in the budget but then they said they had the money but didn't want to fund a program that helped so few, .5% of the children. The numbers were off. .5% of the children would be 50 kids, the same number as a football team. The sports programs gets $90,000 for referees, $45K for Ice Rink Rental, $12K for Pool rental, uniforms, 63,000, etc. ALAP required only 2.5 Teachers, a cost of approximately $180,000. Sports rates higher than education apparently.

When I was on the school committee, I was the committee member most knowledgable with technology and IT information. I reviewed the current budget. The IT software budget was increased after I left from $336,000 a year to $669,000 a year. This is DOUBLE THE BUDGETED AMOUNT IN 1 YEAR! Do your kids have all new computers in school? Do they all have new ipads and/or tablets?

Why did the School Committee let the IT department run amok with their budget? Why did NOT ONE MEMBER of the committee question the request for DOUBLE the IT budget? Why would they approve a budget for any department to be DOUBLE? Why is no one questioning this? If the Police Dept doubled their budget would it be questioned? The fire Dept?

There would be more than enough money in the budget for great programs like ALAP in the schools if the committee didn't approve absurd requests like twice the amount of the previous year. Demand that your child get more computers in schools with twice the funding for IT.

Please note, the computers that were installed in the schools last year were purchased with the previous year budget not the increased amount. The IT department should be completely outsourced in my opinion.

Contracted Nursing Services in 2010, $183K. Nursing services in 2012...$304K, in 2013.... $446,244.

Transportation costs also went from $4.6 Million to $6 Million. Is ANYONE asking why?

Here is a link to the School Budget. Do you see anything that should be questioned?

http://webmail.warwickschools.org/scpublicdocs/FOV1-0005CEAD/

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