"High Achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." - Charles Kettering

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Let's Form Evansville's Academic Warriors!

Calling all folks who are passionate about academic excellence! I have an idea I have been noodling about in my brain for a few years. Every time co- and extra-curricular activities seem to have boundless resources donated from the community, I say to myself and anybody who's in hearing distance, "Where's the passion for the primary function of a school district, that of teaching reading, writing and arithmetic? Where does preparing these kids for life in the real world fall in this district?" I know that passion exists because I hear people complaining about the woeful lack of rigor in our curriculum all the time. 

The loss of the football press box is just the most recent example in a long line of incidents in which it appears that our children's activities take precedence over their basic education. People are falling over themselves to organize fundraisers to pay for something that will be reimbursed by the insurance company, less deductible. Teachers trying to instruct an overcrowded classroom can't look forward to compensation by an insurance company for all the extra hours it takes to grade 5 more essays per class. Seniors unfortunate enough to try and enroll in the Advanced Literature Seminar this year will never be able to get the experience of a college discussion section (my daughter assessed this class as the most generally applicable class for all her college classes thus far) without having to pay exorbitant tuition because the enrollment of 9 was insufficient for them to "rationalize" offering this class. 

Could we warriors for education raise money to close these short sighted gaps administration is causing? Would people donate to such causes? I'm of the opinion that it's all in the marketing! I saw an amazing amount of money solicited at Pete's Inn during the Garage Sale Days last year for the swim team. Those kids hauled in $$ hand over fist. We parents never had to pay an extra $ for our kids to participate in the swim team after that fund raiser. Say 15 is the minimum class size at the HS and there was need to fund 6 kids worth to keep the ALS class.  Each kid is fetching about $6900 in state aid. Divide that by 4 blocks per day and again by 2 semesters per year (ALS is a one semester class) and then multiply by 6. Could we raise $5175 to keep Advanced Lit Sem at the high school this year? Would the administration care if we did? Would it convince them that a sufficient number of people are equally passionate that their kids get a proper education that will prepare them for university or workforce? It's high time for people to be equally aghast by these decisions the administration makes to deny offering useful academic content as they seem to be by the mere suggestion that co- and extra-curricular activities contracts be cut by a percentage that is equivalent to the curricular cuts in hard times. 

People might be inclined to say, "That's what state and local funding is for!" But when the school board and administration use those funds to pay over $200,000 in co- and extra-curricular contracts and refuse to cut more than 5% of that while at the same time cutting the curricular budget by 12%, forcing many teachers to retire early or quit in dismay, I would argue that the state and local funding is not being used to provide a rigorous academic experience for our children. It's a matter of priorities and after observing the budgeting process over the last few years, it became painfully obvious that the administration values sports and music over academic rigor in Evansville. Part of it is because they think that's a primary community value. The problem is that nobody is willing to say it out loud. The board implemented a long series of strategic planning meetings a few years ago and the new administrator has dragged his feet on implementing some of the community suggestions. A friend of mine who has fought for years to get her kids the education they need finally open enrolled out this year. Her comment is, "If they would just admit that the primary focus of this school district is athletics, music and drama and to provide an education sufficient to get their kids an entry level job in service or industry, everyone would be so much better off. The parents who expect their kids to go to university would go up the road to Oregon to get their kid the education they need to get there and the pressure would be off the district to try to be everything to everybody." She said this in a very non-judgmental way. She knows it takes all kinds to make the world go around, but when her bright kids were made to feel awkward because of their brilliance, she wasn't willing to allow that to continue. I'm not ready to throw in the towel yet, but after 14 years of fighting the good fight, I'm very very close. There's more truth in her words than I'd like to admit. 

What are your thoughts?

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