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
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.