Your Voice: Does academic excellence matter at FPS?

TO THE EDITOR:

The most important job in Farmington Hills is the School superintendent. Most residents haven’t figured this out. If the public schools perform well, families want to move into your neighborhood. If more families want to move into your neighborhood, the price of your house will rise.

When I first met Mr. Delgado, the new superintendent of Farmington Public schools, I asked him to tell me why I should keep my eighth grader in the public school system next year. I was hoping he would tell me that he has a plan to teach applied mathematics, maybe broaden the science curriculum with a reverse engineering course. Perhaps a plan to emphasize writing and communication skills.

Honestly, pie in the sky, I would love to have heard Mr. Delgado or any FPS official say something like this: The real world challenges facing our children today demand academic rigor far greater than what we are currently offering. We need to forget about competing with Southfield, South Lyon and Novi and realize that the future global economy is now and will continue to be very competitive. Failing to rigorously emphasize academic excellence, technology and the arts will continue the downward spiral this district is travelling.

Instead, Mr. Delgado answered my question by saying we need to “decrease the achievement gap.”

Deflated, I politely listened to how the district is slowly reaching its goals of decreasing the gap and that with continued diligent efforts and his leadership, they could close the gap. As I walked away I realized the only thing sacred in the Farmington Public Schools is Achievement Gap. Excellence, or at least the pursuit as an individual, is left to helicopter parents searching to give their children the edge.

Sometimes it is in travel baseball, sometimes it is through weekend programs studying applied mathematics. The other alternative for parents is to spend anywhere from $12,000.00 – $28,000.00 per year to send their child to private school. Private institutions like Cranbrook, Mercy and Catholic Central are the grateful recipients of near college level tuition for high schoolers. The institutions are allowed to be selective, have no special needs programs and behavioral problems are not tolerated.

We first realized the ridiculousness of the FPS when at a conference for our second grader, we were confused at the teacher’s insistence that she was “not allowed” to test our child above m-level on the F and P test. Our child devoured books, had read multiple series including all of Harry Potter and was wanting more. If the teacher hadn’t brought it up, we wouldn’t have questioned it. But she kept saying she wasn’t allowed to test higher.

We asked some friends that were teachers and they explained that it was likely a form of self censorship by the teacher. If she tests children, ours or others, and they test at an r level, the gap between high and low achievers would widen. By not allowing kids to test at higher levels, she was effectively achieving the district’s desired outcome. Decreasing the achievement gap. That makes the teacher look like she is achieving what the school and the district have designated as the ultimate goal. To me, intentional or otherwise, it was dishonest.

The manipulation of statistics isn’t limited to classrooms. If the focus of a district remains on achievement gap, so-called helicopter parents (the parents that shuttle their children to SAT prep courses to achieve higher scores on aptitude tests) will self-select out of a district they see failing or not emphasizing excellence. Thus, the result is higher achieving kids leave the district and the Almighty Gap is decreased. The question for residents of Farmington Hills should be: If we are decreasing the achievement gap but our overall educational system is degrading, would you want to buy a house and raise a family here?

The manipulation of statistics, intentional or otherwise, to achieve goals is not what is best for children of this district.

Peter Strickfaden
Farmington Hills

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