Archive for the ‘Letters to Editor’ Category

Charter school optimism

September 29, 2006

(Appearing in the Daily News, Letters to the Editor, 9/29/06)
As readers of the Daily News will know, a local group of parents and educators have been working on the plans for the Palouse Prairie School, a new public charter school in Moscow. It is based on the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound, a learning model that emphasizes love of learning and the importance of service to the community; there are some 150 ELOB schools around the country, including two highly successful ones in Boise and Pocatello. Now, at a milestone, we want to provide everyone with an update, and to thank the community for the strong support the proposed school has received.

As part of the process of starting a public school, a school charter that meets all the requirements of Idaho law has to be written. It is quite a tome, and a critically important one, as it will steer the school in years to come. While assembling the charter, we have strived to work with the community as much as possible, first through a public presentation in May, then through presence at the Farmers Market, and most recently at a public hearing organized by the Moscow School District. We have been greatly heartened by the amazing support for the school from the community, especially so at the public hearing. As a result of that meeting and many helpful suggestions from Moscow School District Superintendent Candis Donicht, her staff and the Moscow School Board, we now have a completed charter in hand, ready for submission to the Idaho Charter Commission. We expect to receive word from the commission in November about the fate of our application. We are optimistic the school can open in fall 2007.

If you would like to receive updates on the progress of the school plans, please send an e-mail to info@palouseprairieschool.org.

Olle Pellmyr, Palouse Prairie School, Educational Organization, Moscow

School will meet standards

September 11, 2006

(Appearing in the Daily News, Letters to the Editor, 9/11/06)
Moscow School District is reviewing the charter for a new school based on the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound (ELOB.org) model. Cindy Bechinski, MSD curriculum director questioned if the ELOB model could meet the Idaho Content Standards. At the State Board of Education Web site I found Idaho State Achievement Test data http://www.sde.idaho.gov/admin/isat/ for every building and district, by grade level and subject. I looked up the ISAT scores for Anser Charter School in Boise and Pocatello Community Charter School, both ELOB schools.

What I found belies Cindy’s concerns. I examined sets of 24 scores in grades 3-6 in each school in three subjects: math, reading and language. I focused on students scoring at the “advanced proficiency” level. The state’s Web site does not give enough data to analyze for demographic variables, such as socio-economic status, ethnicity, or English proficiency, so I did a pair-wise comparison of each school to its district. Looking at the sum of “advanced” and “proficient” categories (the “passing” level) the ELOB schools beat their districts 21 of 24 times. Looking at “advanced proficiency” only, ELOB schools beat their districts 19 out of 24 times. Not only did ELOB beat the district (I had no way of subtracting the ELOB school’s score from the district average), they beat their districts handily, 13 out of 19 times the ELOB school had more than 10 percentage points more “advanced” students.

Another of Cindy’s concerns was Palouse Prairie School’s proposal for multi-age classrooms, and the difficulty of meeting grade-level assessment targets with kids of multiple ages. It is worth noting that Anser uses the multi-age model with obvious success.

The Palouse Prairie’s learning objectives are deeper and richer than ISAT, but in this era of testing, we are confident the school can meet Idaho standards and its own excellence goals.

Nils Peterson, Moscow

Learning and thriving

September 9, 2006

(Appearing in the Daily News, Letters to the Editor, 9/9/06)
I am gratified a committed group of parents, educators, and other community members continue to advance their vision for a new charter school in Moscow. On Aug. 17, the charter for the proposed Palouse Prairie Charter School was presented to the public. This meeting was an important and necessary part of the complex process of creating and chartering a new school. Though I was unable to attend, I understand that the general tone of the meeting suggests that more effectively educating school district staff, the board of trustees, and the general public about the vision and merits of the proposed charter school is a critically important next step.

At the heart of the Palouse Prairie Charter School’s proposal is a teaching/learning model known as Expeditionary Learning/Outward Bound. Currently used in numerous schools across the nation, ELOB creates hands-on, project-based learning experiences that integrate multiple strands of the curriculum into relevant educational activities within the classroom and the community at large. My son had the good fortune to experience ELOB while attending the local Renaissance Charter School. Though satisfied with the school he now attends, he still reminds me that his two years at Renaissance remain his favorite years of school. He and many of his friends thrived academically with the ELOB model, and I would like other children in our community to have the same opportunity to learn in such an engaging and exciting classroom environment.

Our children are a diverse group of learners with a wide variety of learning styles. In a community that rightfully prides itself on its support of diversity, I believe we must consider all educational proposals that offer our youth an expanded menu of environments in which to learn and thrive.

Donald Stanziano, Moscow

Charter school worth a good look

August 29, 2006

(Appearing in the Daily News, Letters to the Editor 8/29/06)
Lately there has been much focus and debate about the starting of a new public charter school in Moscow called the Palouse Prairie School of Expeditionary Learning. When looking at the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound model, http://www.elob.org, and hearing stories about its effectiveness from those who have experienced it first hand, it is hard not to be excited and hopeful that the Moscow School District will support EL as an option for the children of Moscow.

I am a parent who is completely awestruck by those who, over the past two and a half years, have put in hours of hard work to carefully craft a charter and have held public meetings to educate people about the EL model.

Most of the original board members involved in the conception of this school have had personal experiences with EL that affected them so profoundly they now have a selfless drive to create this type of learning experience for the children of Moscow.

I say selfless because they stand to receive no personal gain with the creation of this school. They are not teachers hoping for a job or parents who want their children to attend Palouse Prairie School.

They are educators and others from the community who have seen with their own eyes how amazing it is to have a learning model where children, teachers, and parents are tapped into their inner drive to learn and contribute.

The passion and selfless devotion of these founding members is testament to the power and effectiveness of expeditionary learning.

There are currently two successful EL charter schools in Idaho. If this letter has piqued your curiosity, please check out their Web sites: http://www.anser-charter-school.org and http://www.accs.k12id.us/. To learn more about Palouse Prairie School: http://www.palouseprairieschool.org/.

Lahde Forbes, Moscow

Charter school deserves a fair hearing

August 29, 2006

(Appearing in Daily News, Letters to the Editor 8/28/06)
I know some of the professional educators who have been spending countless hours putting together a charter for a new public school in Moscow (the Palouse Prairie School). When it came time to present their charter to the public Aug. 17, I was disappointed to hear the school district’s response. While it is understandable that they would not welcome a new entry into what was once their exclusive territory, I was hoping for a less biased and more open-minded attitude. Instead, I witnessed a stream of school district employees testifying about completely irrelevant details about day-to-day school management – details not at all relevant to the requirements (clearly set out by the state of Idaho) for approval of the charter.

It got to the point that I would not have been surprised to hear criticism about the school’s Monday lunch menu or where they propose the students hang their hats. One employee brought up some long-refuted data concerning the low ISAT scores of the now defunct Renaissance Charter School (it turns out that the school actually had raised the scores of previously poor performing district students).

Why doesn’t the district just come out and say it didn’t want the competition and be done with it instead of playing silly games. I understand that the state will have the ultimate say in approving the charter anyway.

Harry Moore, Moscow

School is good alternative

August 29, 2006

(Appearing in Daily News, Letters to the Editor 8/27/06)
I think that it would be a good idea to agree to the Palouse Prairie Charter School. It would be going by the same educational model that was used at Renaissance Public Charter School, where I had a great experience. I liked that we had more choice about when we did different subjects and about the amount of time we did the subjects for. Also, we did more projects and more speaking than worksheets and that worked a lot better for me. Please give other kids an opportunity to learn with this model by agreeing to the Palouse Prairie Charter School.

Nikola Stanziano, fifth-grader, Moscow

Board should OK charter school

August 24, 2006

(Appearing in Daily News, Letters to the editor 8/24/06)

I am writing in support of a recent petition by the Palouse Prairie Education Association to the Moscow School Board requesting approval of its charter.

Palouse Prairie Charter School would provide Moscow families with an alternative educational model called Experiential Learning Outward Bound, a project-based model used very successfully at Renaissance Public Charter School where my son attended kindergarten and first grade. As an involved parent, I would like to attest that though the administration failed to provide strong and ethical leadership, the ELOB model and its teachers proved their merit over and beyond my expectations. I also would add that while the Moscow School District has questioned the ability of ELOB to serve gifted and special needs children, it is my experience that ELOB is an expansion of what now happens in my son’s GT program, naturally integrating children at different levels and providing opportunities for them to learn from and support one another in the context of collaborative projects that draw on students’ unique talents and skill sets.

When my son was learning within the ELOB context, he was excited to go to school and full of enthusiasm afterward.

Sadly, this enthusiasm waned when he moved to a mainstream school. These are his foundational years, his prime years. I want those years to be more than OK. I want them to be outstanding. I want his love of learning to thrive and propel him to be the most creative, confident and capable citizen he can be. I see these values at the heart of the ELOB model and at the core of the Palouse Prairie Charter School.

The Moscow School District has great schools already, and expanding its support to include educational opportunities that may work better for some children and their families can only enhance the district.

Katrina Mikiah, Moscow

ELOB school will be good for Moscow

August 23, 2006

(Appearing in Daily News, Letters to the Editor, 8/23/06)

We are writing in support of a group in Moscow that is organizing a new public charter school based on the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound (elschools.org) model. We have a daughter who has attended Anser Charter School, an ELOB school in Boise, since its opening in 1999. This model allows students to delve deeply into a concept while relating it to their world.

For example, during one yearlong expedition, “The Roots of Rebellion,” the students did a survey at Boise State University asking college students their views, formulating questions about rebellion to guide them as they studied the Revolutionary and Civil wars, the civil rights movement, and the women’s rights movement. They wrote and illustrated poetry, which was compiled into a calendar, reproduced and sold to the public. Students wrote diary entries for two characters, British and Colonial, while studying the American Revolution. After many other activities, the students were better able to understand opposite perspectives and tolerate differences of opinion.

We can’t talk about Anser without mentioning the caring community it has created there. Classroom community and whole-school community are times set aside to share, connect, and recognize individual and group efforts. Bullying is rare, if not nonexistent. Positive character traits are taught and assessed.

Anser was a K-6 school for several years and later added seventh grade and then eighth grade as it gained stability in staffing, finances and other logistics. The Moscow school is proposing to take a similar approach.

An ELOB school would be good for Moscow because it would give parents more educational choice, the service projects would benefit the community, and the lessons learned would guide the children well through the rest of their lives!

Lee and Kathy Wassmuth, Boise

Charter school will provide alternatives

August 15, 2006

(Appearing in Daily News, Letters to the Editor, 8/15/06)
Our kids will go back to school soon. Every year there seems to be more government regulations, more standardized testing, more of an effort to squeeze our kids out of their childhood and onto the assembly line. In Moscow we’re fortunate to have a good school district, but there are limits to how much they can innovate or modify their program to offer alternatives for families who want them.

A group of local educators, community members, and advisers have come together to design a new public charter school in Moscow based on the Expeditionary Learning model. We are committed to creating a small, public K-eighth-grade charter school based on the love of learning, yet grounded in the basics and built on a solid business foundation. Expeditionary Learning is about returning learning to being about what kids need, not about what adults need, and we believe it can prosper here in Moscow.

A charter school is a public school that can be overseen by the local school district or by a state agency. We’re asking the Moscow School Board to approve our petition to create a new school so that we can maintain local oversight. The school board will hold a public meeting to discuss the merits of this petition at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Moscow Junior High School Music Room. As chairman of the board organizing this new school, I invite area families who are interested in creating an exciting educational alternative in town to show their support at this meeting.

Bill Rivers, Viola