Friday, December 8, 2000
It's December 8 -- do you know where your holiday spirit is? In the crush and rush of the season, are you feeling a little hollow? If all the hubbub of the holidays just isn't giving you the warm glow you expected, don't despair. Here are some suggestions to help you cut through the humbug and give some reason to the season.
Take advantage of Carlisle Center's many opportunities to make Christmas special for others. Once again, the Carlisle Police are collecting toys to be delivered to the Lowell office of the Department of Social Services. They will be accepting toys at the station on December 16 and 17. Hunneman Senkler Coldwell Banker is sponsoring the "Toys for Tots" collection and the people at Daisy's Market have given them space for a drop-box. These toys will be collected up until December 17. The Holiday Party on December 14 at Union Hall will offer an opportunity to donate to Partners for Youth with Disabilities, and the Carlisle School Middle School will gladly accept any old coat (especially adult sizes) to help clothe the needy. Outerwear can be dropped off at the middle school guidance office. Want to help the school directly? Snip those Betty Crocker Boxtops for Education and drop them off at Daisy's.
If you're looking for something that will last past December 25, opportunities abound for volunteering a small amount of time that will make a big impact. The council on aging needs drivers of all kinds, both for their Friendly Driver Program and for their van. Call Susan Evans at 371-2895. Volunteers are being sought by the Red Cross to help with Carlisle's blood drives. A call to 800-462-9400 could actually help save lives. The Gleason Library would welcome anyone willing and able to shelve books, and there's an opening on the trails committee for someone who would like to join a group that works quietly to enhance the quality of life here in Carlisle.
If you wish to give on a more personal level, a fund has been set up to help the owners of Concord's Grasshopper Shop recover from the devastating fire that destroyed their store the night before Thanksgiving. One of the owners, Mary Klinoff, resided on Concord Street in Carlisle before moving to Concord in 1998, and she and her family have been models of the spirit of giving. Whether collecting books for the homeless or toys for Haitian children, Mary and the staff at her shop have given of themselves tirelessly. If you ever wanted to say thank-you for their efforts, here's your chance. Donations can be sent to The Grasshopper Rebuild/Relief Fund, Community National Bank, Attn: Jean Mickle, 1134 Main Street, Concord, MA 01742.
Just before Thanksgiving, I was greeted with the happy news that the value of my Carlisle home just received a significant boost! To the delight of local real estate agents, the results of last spring's MCAS testing placed Carlisle and Concord-Carlisle High School at the top of the state rankings. However, are tests that tell us very little we don't already know worth their multimillion dollar cost and loss of many weeks of instructional time? Definitely not!
In a hopefully tongue-in-cheek effort to convey value to the MCAS, the Boston Globe featured a front-page article on the promise of using MCAS scores to predict the outcomes of the Thanksgiving day high school football games. Excitedly, I spent a full morning correlating MCAS results with team performances. Alas, as with the national election, the outcome was too close to call. The higher MCAS performer within each competition won only thirty of fifty-eight games. Perhaps a rescoring is needed ... not of the games, but of the MCAS. I have much more faith in football officials than I do in the state's politically appointed education leaders. At least the football officials are doing their best to serve the players well. This is not true of state policy makers who place their own egos and private interests ahead of the state's youth.
Recently, Commissioner of Education Driscoll cited Texas as a state to emulate with respect to educational improvements. What is he thinking! (Perhaps a federal appointment if Bush becomes president?) The Texas record shows ever-increasing dropout rates and special education classifications. When those who test poorly are removed from the tested population, of course the Texas test (TAAS) scores will climb! It's also interesting to note that as the TAAS scores increase, Texas SAT scores decline. In Texas, it's drill, drill, drill, while sacrificing thoughtful instruction and slighting social studies, science, and foreign language education. It's no surprise that Texas college faculties are complaining that Texas students are less prepared than before the TAAS craze commenced.
Instead, Commissioner Driscoll should look to our neighboring state, Connecticut, for direction. Consider the following passage taken from a Connecticut Board of Education policy statement issued last September: "(State) test results do not provide a comprehensive picture of student accomplishments. There is a danger that overemphasizing state test scores to evaluate a student's, a school's or a district's performance can result in an inappropriate narrowing of the curriculum and inappropriate classroom instructional practices ..... Teaching isolated skills for test preparation or using repetitive tasks that go far beyond reasonable practice do not represent good instruction. In addition, no one assessment ... should be the sole basis for promotion, graduation or other important decisions in the education of a student."
By declaring the MCAS as a sole basis for graduation, Massachusetts officials are assuming a course of action that will injure many students who do not test well, but who are still talented and productive human beings. As if this is not sufficiently horrendous, they are also closing the doors of the state community college and university system to those who do not do well on the MCAS test. (There go major opportunities for "lifelong learning.") And one board member has even suggested that the state should work closely with the business community to ensure that satisfactory MCAS performance becomes a condition for hiring. (There goes the opportunity for a productive life.)
These policies of the State Board of Education and the Commissioner of Education are belligerent and hurtful. I hope I'm not the only Carlisle resident communicating these beliefs to our legislators, state education leaders, governor, and members of our local school committees.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito