Chariho School Parents’ Forum

March 26, 2007

A letter from Hopkinton Town Council Member Barbara Capalbo

Filed under: Budget,Chariho,grade spans,Student Performance — Editor @ 12:58 pm

March 25, Westerly Sun The People’s Forum

“Chariho voters should reject boost in spending until scores follow suit” 

It was very unfortunate that the Chariho School Board meeting of March 13 could not be shown on public television because of a technical problem. 

It was a very vibrant and inform­ative discussion of our abysmal national and state educational scores between the Chariho administrators and all the new and older members of the school board. 

The members of the board were vocal, logical, respectful, passionate and intensely interested in the prob­lem concerning state standards and curriculum which have failed our children so dramatically. 

The TERC program and, specifically, the Math Investigations curriculum needs to be researched honestly and quickly before more students are left without the tools to progress to higher standards, parents are left with no reasonable ability to explain and assist their children with homework, teachers are left stranded with students who cannot be educated to grade level without substantial remedial work, and ultimately with pupils – our children – who cannot compete on a national stage. 

The school administration believes that this is an emotional issue and, therefore, should be discussed rationally and determined or changed in a balanced manner. That is all well and good as long as it is timely, immediate, without haste – and now. 

The citizens of our three towns have the right to be upset and furious – it is our hard-earned money and our children and grandchildren’s futures that are being wasted. We either have among the worst teachers and students in the country – or among the worst curriculum and administration in the country. 

We have highly paid teachers who cannot speak for their charges, cannot be recognized for their common sense, cannot be respected or listened to by this administration and its disaster of a curriculum. 

Mr. Ricci has said this TERC cur­riculum was implemented before his promotion – although, in the prior administration, he was the assistant superintendent responsible for the curriculum.  There should therefore be more than enough information – more than five years’ worth – to substantiate the lower scores, and that should allow Mr. Ricci to make an executive decision to get us on the right track quickly. That’s the CEO’s job – hard choices from a piercing and objective (national, regional and Chamber of Commerce) study.  If he does not feel he can accomplish this, we can help. Chariho’s proposed budget of $50,327,187 for 3,679 students ($13,679 per student) does not seem to beget high performance. 

We fail on all levels. I propose the Chariho district budget be level funded allowing the reduction in expenses per student. It seems spending less increases the ability of students to learn and raises these pupils’ national, regional and state scores. We must follow the lead of Massachusetts, Minnesota or Vermont’s educational standards and curriculum – certainly not Rhode Islands’. 

We have such an embarrassment of riches. Vote “no” on Tuesday, April 10, and demand a level funded school budget until we have a supe­rior education and superior scores. 

Barbara Capalbo Hopkinton Member, Hopkinton Town Council



  1. Problems with TERC curriculum is not new or news. This link takes you to a number of articles written on the subject. One of the items is a letter to the Providence Journal written in 2000. Another is an editorial in the Boston Globe from 2004. In the Boston Globe article, they refer to the teacher’s and their union being frustrated with TERC.

    While there is naturally emotional responses to schools not teaching our children, TERC opponents are loaded with factual information that demonstrates the damage caused by TERC curriculum.

    Administrators have made a mistake in choosing to implement TERC curricular. I sincerely hope the mistake was made based on an ignorant attempt to make math more enjoyable for students, but regardless of the initial motivation, TERC need to be eliminated and our children need to be taught math skills once again. Further delay in removing TERC curricular is a purposeful decision to retard our children’s education. This is inexcusable.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 26, 2007 @ 1:59 pm | Reply

  2. The more I read about TERC, the more suspicious I become of motives for implementation at Chariho. Investigations (TERC) was introduced in the early 1990’s in California, after 7 years, and plummeting test scores, California got rid of TERC. This was prior to Chariho’s decision to use TERC. Utah also rid themselves of TERC.

    TERC proponents claim that there is no value in teaching children math skills via memorization if children do not understand the abstract concepts of math problems. While this sounds all well in good, with every single person I’ve spoken to about Investigations/TERC, we all agree that our understanding of abstract math concepts naturally flows from first learning math skills. In other words, anyone that sticks with math and learns the algorithms will naturally begin to grasp the abstract concepts.

    Investigations/TERC curriculum is akin to letting kids randomly hit the keys on a piano and expecting them to become concert pianists. No, that is not how higher learning progresses. Concert pianists begin with the tedious and often boring task of learning musical notes and keyboard techniques. Eventually, if they stick with it long enough, and have inherent talent, they just may become concert pianists, but even concert pianists had to suffer through rote learning.

    Why is this so difficult for administrators to understand? Why do they deny children basic math skills? I thought it was a tragic mistake, but I’m beginning to wonder if there is something more to it?

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 26, 2007 @ 2:29 pm | Reply

  3. “We either have among the worst teachers and students in the country – or among the worst curriculum and administration in the country.” I read these editorials with great interest, like many of you I would like to be as well rounded in different perspectives as possible, hence my participation with this website. However it is statements like these that really turn me off. Chariho is in NO WAY among the worst in any of these categories. We are not perfect, we are not the best, and as you can see through the math curriculum study, and the possible management study, we continuously strive to be better.

    Comment by Andrew McQuaide — March 26, 2007 @ 10:09 pm | Reply

  4. But something needs to be said when people choose to attack our schools in this fashion, while her opinion is debatable, her comment in regards to us being the worst in any category is not. We can show her the worst (I’m sure shes seen it) and Chariho is not it.

    Comment by Andrew McQuaide — March 26, 2007 @ 10:12 pm | Reply

  5. Andrew,

    There are several links on this site that will take you to test scores. You can also find them in the “Chariho Links” link on the right panel.

    If a state consistently ranks in the bottom quarter, and your neighbors (MA, CT, NH, VT) continually rank in the top quarter – using the term “among the worst” is appropriate. In a New England comparison, we are the worst.

    Here are the NE Ranks

    4th grade reading – RI 36, MA 1, CT 7, VT 2, NH 3, ME 10

    4th grade math – RI 39, MA 1, CT 9, VT 6, NH 4, ME 16

    8th grade reading -RI 32, MA 1, CT 25, VT 8, NH 5, ME 4

    8th grade math – RI 40, MA 1, CT 23, VT 3, NH 7, ME 24

    Our performance is very low, and as also documented on this site, we are very expensive. So if it is not the teachers, students, administrators or curriculum, what is it?

    Barbara’s comments are not “opinions.” Scores are scores. Expenditures are expenditures.

    Comment by Bill Felkner — March 26, 2007 @ 10:22 pm | Reply

  6. My problem with all of this is that our brightest students are not served well. We spend almost 18% of our budget on the most difficult students. I thought if I compared our scores with Barrington’s (8th grade middle school NECAP scores on the Chariho School website) that we would be similar on the higher levels “Proficient with Distinction” (#4) if not on some of the middle or lower levels of scoring. I assumed (incorrectly) that a bright student would do well anyway. They don’t.

    We have bright and intelligent students and more should have made the higher levels. If SAT scores don’t go up for our best and normal and nice students they won’t get into, or get scholarships to, the very best colleges. We fail them and their families in particular. We pay enough. More than enough. GianCarlo demanded it best at the school board meeting – “excellence not proficientcy” – on the Vision 2008 plan proposed by the administration. The administration must investigate success and mimic it. Now.

    Comment by BarbaraC — March 29, 2007 @ 9:02 am | Reply

  7. “The administration must investigate success and mimic it” is exactly right!

    When Ms. Capalbo made my family aware of the TERC catastrophe, I immediately went to work looking for a way to compensate for the deficiencies of Investigations curriculum. Singapore produces the best math students in the world, and thus, Singapore Math was where I turned. There is no shame in acknowledging weaknesses and copying those that succeed. This is advice that Chariho would do well to heed.

    I discovered that many schools did away with or reduced accelerated classes when TERC curriculum was implemented. Does anyone know if Chariho has eliminated or reduced classes for accelerated learners at the Middle School level?

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 29, 2007 @ 9:36 pm | Reply

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