Positive tracking

At Sam Placentino Elementary School in Holliston, Mass., a significant number of parents enroll their kids in programs that are basically guaranteed to reduce their child’s state test scores. In an interesting twist on the idea of parental choice, the school offers three separate pedagogical tracks: traditional, Montessori, and French immersion. With mounting data from state MCAS tests, though, the school found that the traditional track outperformed the other two. Rather than shut those tracks down, the district chose to let parents make the choice: The school continues to offer the other tracks, while frankly admitting that they may not see test score improvements, at least in the earlier years. They offer anecdotal evidence that the alternative pedagogy instills a love of learning and that students’ scores will catch up in middle school. While there doesn’t appear to be any hard data to back up those claims, the school’s decision to offer the alternative programs is at least innovative and honest: Be transparent, and let the parents choose what they want. In a small, homogeneous suburb like Holliston, this program gives us a potential glimpse into how parents value tests versus other education desiderata.

Three to Choose,” by Lisa Kocian, Boston Globe, October 4, 2009

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