Thursday, 26 January 2012


At the school board meeting Tuesday night Capital High gave their "School Improvement" report. Everything was going along about as good as can be hoped for until one of the presenters made that pompous indeological statement that makes my teeth grate "it takes a village to educate a child". No it doesn't! This attitude reminds me so much of when I was behind the soviet lines in 1975- everyone was obligated to the state - in fact they could take you out of your house to work wherever they wanted you to whenever they wanted to- you had no rights- everything was "for the good of all"- the individual had no rights- was of no consequence.Kind of like our teachers being forced to do community service for their performance evaluations. They're not being evaluated strictly on how well they do their JOB which is to TEACH but are being forced to do other things they may not want to do.

Well, so is Capital High a good school? I actually liked some of the new things they are doing. They are tracking kids of a sort in what they call tiers. Tier one are students they just pretty much can leave alone- they do their work and do pretty well at it. Tier two are kids that may need some support- maybe a mentor  or a little help with their homework. I like the idea of giving kids homework help after school. Tier three were kids who had behavior issues or needed more intervention. They went on to explain about the digital academy where kids can make up credits. This may not be a bad use of technology to help kids that are struggling in a particular class. They also have Dual Credits so kids can opt to get credit for a course at Carroll College or UM Helena. They also have the traditional AP (advanced placement) classes where students can take a test and make their credits transferrable to college. One of the board members asked why the kids were pressured to get college credits instead of just enjoying high school . I pretty much agree. Our schools are trying to do way too much- they have career tracks now too.You can do premed work or learn to be a welder or construction worker for example. The schools shouldn't try to be a college or vocational school, they shouldn't try to be a family or a mental health center either. Helena has social services and vocational schools as all cities do. It's called making referrals.

As I see it the "tracking" that they are doing is limited though. There seems to be opportunities for advanced students and good support for kids that need help but what about the middle? Should they be all lumped together? I remember my honor student daughter getting together with a friend to finish reading books that they didn't read in their english class. I think the kids have the right to be in an A english class if they have the abilities. They definitely should not be in english classes with kids who are barely literate. We used to have A, B, and C english tracks. This was better education for everyone. Everything in life is always changing- including education- but good change means keeping things that work. It is no wonder to me that last summer we achieved the lowest reading and math
 scores on college entrance exams in the United States that have ever been recorded in the history of the country.

After the Capital High presentation came the Peak (gifted and talented) presentation. I was impressed that the board really did some thoughtful questioning of this program. One question was this " Why do gifted kids have to have time with their peers and our Special Needs children are fully integrated and don't get this opportunity?" Exactly. I taught special education and their needs are not being met in the regular class. They deserve their own curriculum and their own peer group.

Here's a statistic for you. Did you know that according to  the U.S. Department of Education no evaluation of TITLE I SCHOOLS (high poverty schools that have lots of Federal programs and dollars) from the 1970's forward has found credible evidence of significant positive impact on student achievement? In other words, the whole child concept is a failure. Let the teachers teach, let the kids learn, and let the village mind it's own business. It takes a good school to educate kids not a free lunch!

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