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Curriculum Vs. Test Scores

Some parents at a unique Massachusetts elementary school are showing by their actions that the type of curriculum their children are exposed to is more important to them than near-term test scores, according to a story in the Boston Globe.

When children enter kindergarten at Sam Placentino Elementary School in Holliston, Mass., their parents decide which of one of three instructional programs to place them in: traditional, French immersion, or Montessori. But the choice comes with a warning from district administrators: The nontraditional programs will likely produce lower state test scores, especially for younger students.

"We are very clear to parents when they choose these programs that their children's third- and fourth- and maybe fifth-grade MCAS [Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test] scores will be, on average, below where kids in traditional programs are,'' said Superintendent Bradford Jackson. However, Jackson also explains that by high school, "all those issues have resolved themselves.''

The test-score warning doesn't intimidate parent Pamela PinterParsons, whose daughter recently completely the Montessori program and whose son is just starting it. In fact, it has been so positive for her children, that PinterParsons started a local cable show, "The Magic of Montessori," to inform the community about the program. "I think Montessori gives them confidence about themselves," she said.

While most parents choose traditional instruction for their children, this year, the French immersion program and the Montessori program both have waiting lists.

"This is the sort of innovation that you hope doesn't get squelched by a focus on standards," said Jill Norton, executive director of the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy, in Cambridge. "Having a level of accountability shouldn't take away from a teacher's ability to innovate and continue to offer creative program for kids—that's the hope."

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