Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Crisis in Newport

Jim wrote the following piece in response to the meeting he attended on September 24 at the Newport High School.

Crisis in Newport

These days, when one thinks of "self regulation gone amok", banking institutions come to mind. Yet with Newport's chronic educational failure, it seems the bankers have nothing on Newport's education system.

NMHS is now in its sixth year of failing to make "Adequate Yearly Progress", or "AYP" in math. Also revealed at their math AYP meeting, NMHS is also in its third year of failing "Literacy". That seems to cover just about all of the "Three Rs". Just exactly where is Newport NOT failing?

The No Child Left Behind law demands increasingly aggressive corrective action beginning after two years of AYP failure. As required by law, NMHS held a public meeting in the cafeteria on September 24th to discuss how to deal with this problem. This meeting should have taken place five years ago, and as best I can tell, no such meetings are planned to address the "Literacy" situation. (Apparently three years of failure is unworthy of corrective action.) This meeting exposed the both gravity of the situation, and the district's complete inability to cope.

The best example of the reality disconnect in Newport came from Virginia Irwin when she said "This is not an indictment". Yes Virginia, this IS an indictment. It is the biggest indictment a public school can get!

Staff members in attendance clung to a similar disbelief bolstered by an impressive array of empty excuses. Some blamed demographics, some blamed bad parents, others vilified the "moving target" (progress) required of NCLB. My favorite excuse, "we need more money" also made its mandatory appearance.

Not once did I hear district staff accept personal responsibility for failure. Oh how I wish I could spin these excuses into gold. The cafeteria would have resembled Scrooge McDuck's basement! We spend far too much money to listen to any excuses.

Denying the magnitude of the problem followed by scapegoat hunting is hardly a fast track towards resolution. This problem has festered for six years and shows no signs of abatement. Newport cannot and will not fix itself. Contrary to verbal assurances, it is evident that the Newport leadership has already excluded most of the drastic remedies available under NCLB. This is inexcusable.

The Captains of Education in Newport are clueless. Not only didn't they see the iceberg, they never felt the collision, refuse to acknowledge water on the promenade deck, and still call their ship "unsinkable". The crew isn't doing much better.

Its high time the passengers - parents and taxpayers - took over the ship. Its our childrens' futures now clouded in doubt, our money squandered on ineffective
education fads, and our position in world affairs at stake.

How many children must we leave behind before we learn not to entrust their future to this failed system?

Jim Peschke

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