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Letters to the Editor Dec. 08, 2011

Consultants are not solution to Del Norte’s education problems

 I appreciate the Dec. 3 article, “Reports fuel school reform effort.” I thoroughly enjoyed discussing it with my family of educators. I agree that high absenteeism and graduation rates are serious problems in our schools; and I appreciate the effort put forth by the participating organizations to gather student input, but I have issues with the conclusions.

First, I know the Triplicate doesn’t like to dwell on the fact that we are one of the poorest and most unemployed counties in the state, but the correlation between that and student achievement cannot be overlooked. It is a well-known fact that the best indicator of individual student performance/attendance is 1) parents’ education level, and 2) parents’ income.

I am also wary of cause and effect arguments such as the correlation of education level and health (again, income level is the primary indicator here).

Finally, I would caution against drawing conclusions about rigor and relevance based solely on student responses. How many of us would say our high school education was relevant to our lives? For me the content mostly wasn’t, but the literacy skills I gained still are.

The conclusion of the article that we need to bring in consultants to teach teachers and administrators how to provide more “relevance and rigor” is flawed. Sure there are burnt-out teachers who fail to inspire students, but they are the minority. The majority would do more for their students except their hands are tied by a prescribed curriculum and large class sizes.

The recent emphasis on standardized testing and the resulting destruction of creative processes has caused the most damage to undereducated communities like ours. When the burden is on the teachers to increase relevance and rigor while class sizes increase and supplementary programs are cut, it sets them up for failure. But it is not a failure of teachers to desire or know how to teach, it is the unwillingness of our citizenry to prioritize education for everyone.

Bringing in patronizing consultants will add insult to injury. The guaranteed result; test scores improve for one or two years, then drop below current levels after that while the consultants abscond with money that could have gone to sustaining an after-school program. Parents and educators be wary of catch-phrase solutions, they are almost always too good to be true, and almost always irrelevant.

Josh Norris

Crescent City


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