To the editor:
An open letter to members of the Salem School Committee:
We are writing to speak with one voice today and express our strongest possible objection to the proposal to reduce the academic school year at the Saltonstall School from its current 190-day calendar. There is a tremendous body of research indicating the positive correlation between time spent in the classroom and student achievement. We have the opportunity to build on the Saltonstall model and expand it for the benefit of all of our students and not step back from a proven approach that improves student learning.
The Community Advisory Board for Salem Public Schools held a public meeting in January highlighting the work of Chris Gabrieli and Jennifer Davis from the National Center for Time and Learning. Education reform initiatives around our country are looking to time as the key to successfully transform public schools into models of success. Embracing this concept, several Salem schools are now in the process of applying for Time and Learning grants to help them implement expanded learning opportunities.
The concern expressed by some School Committee members is that Saltonstall “has not worked” because it is not outperforming other schools. Given the success of extended time across the country, rather than reducing time in school we should build on this model by addressing the numerous possible other reasons for low performance. Focusing on frequent teacher feedback, data-driven instruction, high-dosage tutoring, and relentless attention to academic achievement can augment increased instructional time and offer our students a rigorous educational experience.
We are all interested in seeing every single child and every single public school in Salem achieve at the highest level possible. Equity in education should be the standard for which we strive. However, in seeking equality across our schools, we must be certain that we do not reduce our schools to the lowest common denominator. Instead, our goal is to bring up every school to the greatest level of achievement possible.
As business and community leaders, we are deeply committed to enhancing the quality of Salem’s public schools. Salem’s students are our children and the children of our employees. Salem’s teachers are our neighbors, our family and our employees. The excellence of our school system has the ability to attract workers, grow jobs and to bring in an expanded customer base by drawing new residents to our community.
We ask you to be bold, courageous leaders who help raise our schools up to the highest standards. Maintain the 190-day calendar at the Saltonstall School, support extended learning time in the schools that want it implemented and push for many more innovative strategies to improve Salem Schools.
George W. Atkins
Chairman, The Salem Partnership
for the Partnership executive committee
President, Salem Chamber of Commerce
for the chamber board of directors
Patricia Maguire Meservey
Chair, Community Advisory Board for the Salem Public Schools
for the committee