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Too Little Too Late?

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Oust NEA Shills To Lift Reading Scores

EVERY LEGISLATOR who votes against making every third-grader who can’t read at that level repeat that grade should absolutely be voted out because it’s obvious that that legislator is in the back pocket of the NEA.

The dues-paying members of the union can do no wrong, and all members are celebrated as being the best of the best. Holding back even one third-grader would cast aspersions on that teacher, as well as the second- and first-grade teachers. Those teachers might suffer lowered self-esteem and not be eligible for “participant ribbons,” as are students.

The students are not a factor in this discussion; they are the “fodder” and are used only to qualify for more and more federal funds, and no one cares if they ever graduate.

If you can’t read at third-grade level and are passed on “socially,” you are guaranteed to fail and drop out of school.

This “plan” certainly guarantees a full gang and prison system, and no change in our current mess.

DAVE SWINK

Roswell

Education Plan More Punitive Than Positive

THIS LEGISLATIVE session the governor’s education plan will again be forwarded as a solution. Unfortunately, everything in her plan is reactive or punitive. In no way can it be described as reform. Honest reform prevents problems.

An example of this failure is the third-grade retention bill. Instead of preventing the problems with reading, this bill only reacts to it after it occurs. If (Gov. Susana) Martinez and (Education Secretary-designate Hanna) Skandera were serious about the problem, they would be fighting to prevent it. … A more preventative solution would be to minimize the size of the (classes) in K through three. This concentrates the talents of the teacher instead of diluting it across 25 or more students. … When you dilute talent you cheat the talent’s efficacy. …You cheat the child….

This is not to say that social promotion works. New Mexico students can move from grades K through eight and fail everything. In high school, we change the rules — failure matters, and the student gets hung out to dry.

New Mexico law sets students up to fail and drop out. … Every study states unequivocally that flunking a child increases the likelihood of dropping out. Given that, Gov. Martinez and Ms. Skandera are proposing to increase New Mexico’s dropout rate. That is a direct assault on families and children.

What is the preventative solution? In addition to lowering the class sizes of K through third, … require all sixth-graders to earn credit in math and language arts. Require all seventh-graders to earn credit in core content classes: math, language arts, social studies and science. Require all eighth-graders to earn credit in all of the aforementioned classes plus two electives.

This gradually increases the concept of failure with consequences. By the time the child reaches high school, it’s no longer a surprise when (he or she fails). Now, when the child reaches high school (he or she has) learned that failure is irrelevant. Phasing in a credit system in middle school does justice to children.

FRANCIS KITTREDGE

Albuquerque

Social Promotion Benefits No One

DATA ARE mixed on the positive or negative effects of retention on students. However, all will agree that putting a student in the next higher grade without proper passing grades results in lower performance in the class because teachers need to spend additional time with the low-performing student.

To leave the determination in the hands of a child’s parents or guardians takes the responsibilities out of the hands of professional educators.

I would like to offer a compromise. The minute a teacher, counselor or school administrator identifies that a child is not mastering the material, a mandatory after-school/before-school or summer school program would be prescribed. If the child failed to attend, or failed to make adequate progress, then the child would could be held back.

Social promotion of a child based on “seat time” is unfair to the child, and to our state.

FRANKLIN SCHARGEL

Albuquerque

Public School Grading Paints False Picture

MY DAUGHTER attends Whittier Elementary School. I object to the state assigning her school a D. My daughter goes to a school where she has been pushed and challenged (and) that cares greatly for the education, safety and well-being of the students. My daughter has made huge improvements in math and reading, in building friendships and resolving conflicts.

What business do the people at the Public Education Department have grading a school —and a community — they don’t have ties with? What do they know about our neighborhood, our struggles and our pride in our families? Schools were not graded on their own unique characteristics and the growth their students are making.

How did the state grade our public schools? Each school was placed into a group of similar schools. We don’t know which schools were grouped together, but it is my understanding that enrollment in certain programs — free/reduced lunch, English Language Learners, for example — were taken into consideration. Then, using the Standards Based Assessment, the schools were compared, ranked and placed into a bell curve. The highest schools were given As, the next-highest schools Bs, and so on through F. … It doesn’t matter how close the lowest school was to the highest, they get an F, just because they were the lowest.

Another problem is that 90 percent of (an elementary or middle) school’s grade is based on the SBA. I read where a school board member in an undisclosed city asked to take the test given to high schoolers. He failed. If a person entrusted to govern local schools fails, is it possible that these tests don’t actually measure what everyone thinks they do?

I say we give all of the elected officials the SBA. If they can’t pass it, let’s label them as failing legislators and put them in remedial classes. Don’t forget to cut their pay!

BRIDGETT PAUL

Albuquerque

Despite Complaints, Testing Has Merits

THE ANTI-TESTING whiners are at it again. Craftily couching their educationese as rhetorical questions and posing as paragons of omniscience, they contend that all problems would be solved in a test-free environment where individual instructors “evaluate” learning progress. After all, 99 percent of them are “competent.”

In one letter, the suggestion that teachers from “high-income” schools would improve the performance of students in “low-income” schools is scoffed at as “thoughtless” because there are “other factors” that account for the disparity in student performance. One of these factors is the soft bigotry of low expectations … that has condemned “low-income” students to decades of being grossly undereducated. The virulent anti-voucher sentiments of the relevant unions ensure that this condition will remain alive and well. There has even been an idiotic contention that taking advantage of vouchers promotes “segregation” and is therefore ultimately “racist.”

Too much testing, according to (letter writer) Carol Smith, can cause disruptions if one or more students were to “cough convulsively,” or are afflicted with any other “subjective factor” that impairs “physical well-being.” Far more dangerous is the “psychological stress” of a test that can lead to “breakdown” and “crying.” Smith supplements her examples with the utterly banal “we are all human beings who learn at different rates and in different ways and we can’t be put in neat boxes of abilities and skills at certain age levels.” The latter, hardly an observation of Archimedian significance, but nevertheless (is) representative of the kind of thinking employed by those who object to being held accountable but yet proclaim that they know what education is really all about.

COLIN K. FRANKER

Albuquerque

Time and Commitment Drive Education Reform

THIS NEW school grading system is just another political move by (Gov. Susana) Martinez and (Hanna) Skandera. No one from the PED came by to visit my school and actually see what’s going on. If they did, they would see the dedication and hard work by many teachers. I accept that our schools need to improve and educational reform needs to be addressed.

However, real reformation has to include all stakeholders, such as parents, teachers, administrators, community members, etc. Skandera is not a stakeholder in New Mexico’s education. … She’s not here for the long haul. Real reform has to be sustainable for all stakeholders! Of which, Skandera is not!

Reform must not burn out teachers, parents or students. I’m curious how Florida will do over the long haul. Anyone can make drastic changes that will show quick results, but will they last? Quick results will not benefit future students if veteran teachers burn out and leave the profession. Classrooms will be left to new and inexperienced teachers without strong mentors to rely on. I’ve taught in public education for eight years. I have made a real commitment to education and to New Mexico’s children by earning a degree in education, acquiring a dual teaching license and advancing that to a level two, professional license.

Does Skandera have a teaching license? How many years of public education experience does she have? I’m not saying that earning a license will ensure good teaching, but it shows commitment. Our children and future generations need and deserve our commitment.

DANIEL L. ROMERO

Bosque Farms

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