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Parents get first hand look at GPS Humanities program

November 25, 2016 GMT

GREENWICH — “Mother cats have kittens. What are kittens?”

A group of about 25 Greenwich parents gathered around a Smartboard in the semi-darkness of a room in the Havemeyer Building, taking the online STAR literacy test as a fourth-grade student might encounter it.

“Number two: baby cats,” the group shouted, and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Learning Irene Parisi selected their answer.

The group worked its way up from vocabulary words to sentence context to comprehension of full paragraphs.

“The suspense is killing me,” said one mother, as they clicked their way through the 34-question test.

Eventually, the parents scored in the 99th percentile compared with fourth graders. Their satisfaction palpable, they turned their attention to the curriculum coordinators hosting the Humanities workshop for parents.

The recent morning workshop was the second curriculum workshop held for parents by the district. Each monthly workshop features a new subject, such as STEM or the arts. GHS offers more than 100 humanities courses.

In addition to explaining the ins and outs of the STAR test — “It’s a very robust system that gives teachers a lot to act on,” said Parisi — district administrators discussed the English and social studies curriculum at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

As part of the workshop, GHS House administrators Brigid Barry and Lucy Arecco introduced parents to a new pilot course for freshman English, 113A, designed to be a more intellectually stimulating class that students can test into, they said.

The duo also discussed the long-time collaboration of the English and social studies departments.

“The shared goal is constructing and analyizing arguments based on evidence,” said Arecco, describing how teachers can link courses based on theme or academic skills.

Administrators also weighed in on how the implementation of one-to-one laptops has changed their classrooms.

“In terms of research, it’s been fabulous,” said Arecco, explaining that GHS used to only have one computer lab per house.

And now that technology can take classroom conversations online, “Sometimes there are voices that aren’t heard in the classroom that are heard now,” said Antoinette Fornshell, the district’s Humanities Program Coordinator.

“Personalized learning is already alive and well at GHS,” said Co-President of the GHS PTA Patti Jomo. “We have so many different courses that students can move into.”

Vice President of the PTAC Kyle Healy said, “It’s really exciting the opportunities that are offered to kids. It’s like a little college campus... It’s like a treasure. People take it for granted, I think.”

emunson@hearstmediact.com; @emiliemunson