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School District Adopts Goals To Address Students' Needs

Candace Braun

The Princeton Regional Board of Education has adopted a set of goals to address the needs of all students, particularly those with learning disabilities. The decision was made at the Board's September 27 meeting, in response to the concerns of district parents whose children are struggling with dyslexia.

According to Superintendent Judy Wilson, the goals, which will be implemented over the next three years, are to build a connected curriculum throughout all grades in the district that is standards-based, clearly articulated for implementation, and that provides for the academic growth of all students; to develop a system that closely monitors individual student achievement through formative and standardized assessments to discover which interventions and supports are needed; and to develop a comprehensive system for professional learning of all employees that is connected to district goals, based on National Staff Development standards, and the New Jersey statute.

Ms. Wilson emphasized that the goals, which were etched out at the Board's retreat last month, will be implemented gradually, and that she will report on the district's progress annually.

Bill Potter, an attorney in Princeton, voiced his appreciation of how the district has started to address the concerns he has brought to Board members and staff over the last several months.

"I see very real progress and commitment to overcome dyslexia for students in Princeton," he said, noting that his own 14-year-old son has suffered from a lack of specialized instruction from his teachers, which has resulted in his falling behind his peers in school.

"In some ways dyslexia isn't that complicated," said K.P. Wesoloh, noting that her second-grade son's reading ability improved markedly after she sent him to a summer camp for children with dyslexia. However, she added, when he returned to public school in the fall his reading progress remained stagnant throughout the school year.

Paul Schedl, a professor of molecular biology at Princeton University, told the Board how his own daughter, who, like himself, has dyslexia, earned good grades in a special education English class in middle school, which, however, didn't accurately reflect her progress, since standardized tests showed she was still at a fifth grade reading level.

"This is a terrible thing to happen to a kid at that age," he said. "It completely destroyed her self image."

After transferring his daughter to the Lewis School, she was finally able to get the help she needed, he said, but added: "It never should have had to happen this way."

Mr. Schedl emphasized the need to have a program in the district that addresses all students from kindergarten through senior year, but said he is encouraged by the Board's cooperation in hearing parents' concerns, and that "people are listening and taking this problem seriously."


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