Education not keeping pacePublished 8:35pm Thursday, November 8, 2012
To the editor:
For a decade on the school board I watched very talented, highly dedicated people work very hard to help students.
Each year we looked for incremental growth in test scores, we looked for trends that showed our students were getting a better education. There were new initiatives, strategic plans and new leaders. Not a lot changed.
The horrible, unspoken reality continued, and continues today.
In Dowagiac, and most every district across the nation, we lose about 50 percent of our kindergartners before they graduate.
Take any year you choose and check the number of kindergartners versus the number of graduates 12 years later.
Some schools establish their graduation rate based on the number of incoming freshmen versus graduates, some even take the number of incoming seniors versus the number of graduates. Few, if any, take the beginning number of kindergartners versus graduates.
Over time that reality sickened me. We looked at the number of kindergartners in our schools who continued through to graduation; those percentages ranged from something like 25 percent to 40 percent, depending on the elementary school. What needs to change?
In my opinion, we could not dabble around the edges.
Our schools need fundamental change in how we deliver education.
Teachers do not need to work harder, they already work plenty hard. That is true of all staff. It is a hard-working team. Of course, there are slackers in education just like every other profession, but that is not the core problem.
The real problem is that how we attempt to educate students makes education irrelevant in most students’ lives.
The lack of relevance accelerates as students mature.
Education becomes a game to earn a comfortable grade. “A” students cruise along getting A’s. “B” students cruise along getting B’s … and “C” students cruise with their C’s, D’s and F’s.
Society must change the process of education so students are engaged, hungry to learn about their lives, fulfill their dreams.
Students need to wake up each day excited to get to class to explore ideas and projects that matter to them. Working in teams on projects that matter to them, listening to the ideas of their teammates in a place where everyone’s voice is heard and valued.
Every one of us has different perceptions, different reasons for feeling sad or satisfied. We are driven by beliefs that grow in incomprehensible ways. But each of us has to be valued for who we are and what we want from life. Is it any wonder students become distant and bored sitting in rows and being lectured?
The world has changed; the process of education has not. The result is the horrible loss of students from education. Over the past couple years we pushed for change to the fundamental process of delivering education to students. Just look how the pillars of the old system cry out.
Certainly we made mistakes, lots of things merit a do-over, but those are not possible.
Going forward, our students need champions of change to succeed, or the dropouts will continue; frustrated kids will find solace in drugs, there will be continued teen pregnancies and all of the unspoken ills that rob kids of their futures.
The enemies are those individuals stuck in the ways of the past; educators who are comfortable in their little worlds, in their boxes. Change is a threat to those boxes and to the validation of their long careers.
I do not wonder at the level of vitriol I see in the education community. Still I am sickened at the loss of students that we, community-wide, accept.
Push your school board to change the process of education. There is nothing more important.