Wednesday, March 18, 2015

After Parker

Our alumni are amazing folks.

After Parker about half of our kids go to public schools and about half to independent schools.  95% go on to college - many to top tier schools and that's impressive.  But it is what they do with their educations that is most important.  After college their stories vary widely: from the Peace Corps to the diplomatic corps - from PhD programs to tech start-ups.

These are interesting people, committed to making a difference in the world - where ever they land.

Associate Director and art teacher, Susie Merrett, who has been at Parker since the beginning, recently sent our alumni a Facebook message, "What are you up to?"  She has had wonderful responses.

From the Parker class of 2010 to the class of 1997, below is a teaser of some of their stories. To read more about our interesting grads, CLICK HERE!

Elana Cohen ‘10: Hey Susie! I’m at Cornell and currently studying to go to medical school; right now I’m planning on a double major in English and biology with a concentration in molecular biology and a minor in fine arts. If you need anything else let me know!

Aaron Banks ‘98: Hi Susie and fellow Parker alumni, After graduating from Tufts University, I moved to Washington and worked in politics and advocacy, including on Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and as Campaign Manager for the anti-global poverty advocacy organization ONE. In 2010, I joined the Foreign Service and have had diplomatic posting in Washington, New York, Yemen, and London, where I am now half-way through a great two year tour.

Molly Mulligan ‘97:  I finished my PhD At UMass Amherst in 2011M1 in Mechanical Engineering and moved to Israel to do my Post Doc at the Technion in Haifa. After that I was supposed to come back to the USA, but instead I got a job at a startup in Tel Aviv called SpacePharma, where I’m the director of lab technologies. My company is pretty cool, because we are working to be a low cost alternative to the space agencies around the world for doing space based research in a variety of fields including biology, medicine, material science, and agriculture. I’m really enjoying life in Israel.

Friday, March 6, 2015

A customized education

Six- and 7-year-old children are active learners. They use all of their senses to learn in a variety of ways. Each child learns at their own pace. Play is their work. Using materials they can manipulate helps them think about how things work, use their imagination, and solve problems. They construct knowledge through their experiences.

In this Times Union article veteran teacher, Peter Rawitsch expresses frustration at the lack of time for science, social studies, exploration and play in his public school first grade class.  He feels that Common Core and testing pressures have pushed an inappropriate curriculum upon children and teachers alike.  

For expert teachers, the most effective way to teach is to get to know the learners in front of them and tailor the teaching/learning experiences accordingly.  We are lucky at Parker that we have small class size and the teacher:student ratio in our lower grades of between 1:4 and 1:8 for several hours each week.  The teachers know the children and their skill levels intimately.  This is an incredible luxury - and it is also why we can customize the learning to a wide range of learners.

In Finland, the most successful country in the world on international tests of reading and math, the schools have no grade level standards.  They just don't think that way.  Their model is based on the developmental timeline of each individual child - and by knowing each individual, teachers can customize  - not standardize - the learning.

The public school system in Finland is more like our private school system.  Each school is independent in its methods.  Within this autonomy teachers are respected professionals who make decisions about what students need and should learn each day.  In this way, Parker is much like Finland. Our students are successful not because of standardization, but because teachers have the freedom to customize the learning.