It's time for RSU 13 to stand and deliver
We were startled by the "unofficial" numbers reported out of Oceanside High School-West stating 52 percent of our eighth-graders are failing at least one class.
The two areas most frequently failed are English and U.S. History.
This is completely unacceptable. What we would like to see in this situation is for all of the school officials and employees at all levels to set aside the normal blame-casting, butt-covering and excuse-making that accompanies this kind of news and move forward with one purpose — help the kids do better.
The school leaders tell us they are waiting to meet in September, but they've had this information for months. What are they waiting for? Summer is a perfect time to start brainstorming strategies for improvement in the coming school year.
What are we going to do for these kids?
Failing in the eighth grade can lead to students failing in ninth, and that can affect their future. Colleges look at high school transcripts.
What's at stake here is our community's future and the opportunities for these children. The statement that it will take three to five years to see improvement is unacceptable. We cannot simply sacrifice that group of kids on the alter of the school's inadequacy. However hard school employees have to work to bring about improvement, they should be willing to make that effort.
We were not surprised as we began working on this story to find the school district making it difficult to get answers to the most basic questions, like how many eighth-graders do you have in your school? The school should welcome public involvement and interest in the situation. When we ask questions of our school officials, getting answers should not be like pulling teeth.
Questions in this process should include:
How can we put the data on academic performance into context? What are the trends? What has changed in the transition from Georges Valley High School to Oceanside West?
Why are students failing? Is it a student's attendance record, missing assignments or poor test scores?
Where are the students that are failing classes coming from?
What extra help is offered to students failing a class? Are tutoring, study clubs and extra credit available to a struggling student that wants to pass his or her class?
What happens when a student fails World History. Does he repeat the class, or just move on to World History II?
The community must become more involved in this process. Parents especially have a responsibility to look out for their own children. When a report card comes home with failing grades, it's time to go to the teachers and principals with questions. If the answers don't make sense, take your problem to the school board.
We have a great deal of collected wisdom in our community. Retired teachers and other professionals could make a tremendous difference by volunteering to work in the schools.
There continues to be a need for increased accountability in public schools. Raises for teachers should not be based merely on the number of years of service, but on the quality of their performance. Incentives need to be added to the equation.
In the meantime, parents would be wise to make time to study with their children at home. You cannot always count on someone else to watch out for your students.
The district's new superintendent, Lewis Collins, made an interesting statement about his vision:
"Keeping our eye on that prize for all kids will assure us that bureaucracy and distraction does not cloud our purpose.”
This is a race for school employees and the students. When you look back on your career, you will want to be able to say, "I did right by these kids and kept my eyes on the prize."
Let's encourage this leader to put his words into action.