Walpole Public School staff and concerned parents met at the public library to discuss the book and documentary, ‘Beyond Measure,’ which elaborates on issues in education. Photos by Laura Drinan
By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter
Students’ pressure to perform well is met with increasing rates of stress, depression, and anxiety. The emphasis on perfect grades and the need for an after-school calendar full of extracurricular activities are two ingredients to set a student up for failure. Administrators, teachers, and parents of Walpole Public Schools are beginning to realize the toxicity of over-testing and over-scheduling students and are starting the discussion on how to help students thrive.
Over the summer, many members of the community joined the Walpole Public Library and the Walpole High School Counseling Office in reading Vicki Abeles’ “Beyond Measure.” Several students read the book for their summer reading program and met with Walpole High School guidance counselor, PJ O’Toole, to discuss it.
Inspired by his students’ insightful comments, O’Toole invited the community to the Walpole Public Library on October 2 to watch excerpts of the documentary of the same name and have an amicable discussion on the topic.Walpole parent, Susan Porter, presented an overview of the book through a slideshow, which informed the attendees of important facts regarding today’s educational culture. “Preschoolers, all the way to high schoolers, and even many college students that I know, are being pressured to get the highest grades,” she said. “They are being pressured to take more AP courses, to get higher test scores. This is actually damaging their mental and physical health,” says Porter, as she presented some of the book’s shocking statistics, including that only eight percent of teens get the recommended hours of sleep each night.
“Many people say, ‘If only we had an extra hour in the day.’ But if we had that hour,” Porter continued, “we would probably just schedule something else.”
Porter elaborated on the achieve-at-all cost mentality in our society. To achieve a flawless report card, play sports each season, and commit to extracurricular activities, students are sacrificing sleep and family time to complete all of their homework, play in each game, and participate in each after-school activity.
Teachers are also “teaching to the test,” meaning that they are only helping students learn for their yearly standardized tests, rather than providing authentic and meaningful educational opportunities. “Children often internalize the message that tests indicate: whether they are smart or not, good or not, worthy or not,” says Porter. “Often, this can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy and students believe they are what they scored on the test.”
O’Toole invited a panel of speakers to the front of the library’s Community Room to discuss the topic with the event’s attendees. Jana Morra, a Walpole parent, Brigham Byerly, a Walpole High School sophomore, Jen Morrell, a Bird Middle School science teacher, and Tori Noyes, Walpole High School’s newest counselor, agreed to serve on the event’s panel to answer questions and discuss the culture surrounding education. Parents could freely discuss their concerns about their students and the school, or ask questions about the book or documentary.
While there is no easy solution to ensuring the best possible education to each student, the question-and-answer session provided attendees with some ideas on how to make sure their children thrive without the pressure of grades and scores.
“Beyond Measure” brought the community together for a much-needed discussion on what it means to be a student in 2017.