Letter From Barbara Bicknell

Dear Santa Clara Community,

There has been much discord concerning recently-elected Santa Clara Unified School Board members. At issue is the most effective method for educating all children, including English Language Learners (ELLs) and socio-economically disadvantaged students. The curriculum is exactly the same, only the delivery style is different.

On one side, some SCUSD Board members want uniform, “Back to Basics” teaching and want contract renewals for principals and district office staff to be based on support for “Back to Basics.”

“Back-to-Basics” is an older, teacher-centric classroom method. The instructor teaches a lesson and students work individually. There is some discussion, but the focus is on individual work, with teachers helping students who have difficulties.

On the other side, some teachers and district staff endorse a newer, student-centric method – differentiated instruction – characterized by classroom teaching that is hands-on and workshop-based, using the Socratic method – inquiry and discussion – to actively engage students.

This doesn’t replace individual study, but focuses classroom time on discussion that includes complete sentences and content-specific vocabulary. Studies (ell.stanford.edu) have shown this is critically important for ELLs and for socio-economically disadvantaged students.

Teaching should fit students. Methods should be adapted to meet students’ strengths and needs. Teachers are the best-qualified to makes these decisions. When Board Members disregard this, they fail in their job.

With children’s education at stake, we want to support SCUSD teachers and staff. On March 7th at 6PM, here will be a rally at the SCUSD District office. Please be there to let your voice be heard.