Editorial: School takeover not the answer to problems

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 13, 2004

There’s a lot of talk these days about Governor Pawlenty’s new school takeover concept. The alamists, as State Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecki calls them, are in full cry against such an idea for at least one obvious reason &045; loss of local control, which many people would agree is not a desireable option.

But alarmists can relax. In reality, there would likely be a number of corrective steps taken before such drastic action was initiated, she said.

School takeovers are becoming more and more common in big-city school districts, such as Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia, to ensure quality education for all students. While the takeovers have turned some troublesome areas around, including finances which we agree is critical, the concept seems to have little affect on the most desired outcome &045; student performance, at least at the high school level.

Email newsletter signup

Students’ test scores are a popular measure of a school’s performance overall, but those numbers can be skewed by the number of students absent on test day or the number of special education students who are tested. More than test scores must be considered in determining performance levels, just as educators are not the only group responsible for a child’s learning.

A number of years ago, the question going through educational and parental circles was &uot;Why can’t Johnny read?&uot; Perhaps that’s a question worth revisiting.

Johnny may be in a very fine Minnesota school district in which teachers have assistants to help students having difficulty reading words. The school may have hired the most creative teachers who teach for the love of learning and children. In short, they may be doing everything right &045; and yet Johnny still has trouble reading at the level required by standardized tests.

Let’s visit the home. Kids struggling with a difficult home life may just find little use for learning when they are battling apathetic parents or physical, chemical or sexual abuse, either with their parents or themselves.

Studies have affirmed over and over that a love of reading, or at the least, adequate reading skills, begin at home. Perhaps solving the home issues and holding parents accountable for their children’s learning success would be followed by more academic success for our students, and the need for the school takeover discussion simply unnecessary.