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Two reforms discussed in depth

New Oregon School Report Cards and What They Say

Feb.1, 2000

The Oregonian editorial Report cards on Oregon schools (1/31/00) almost got it right. The most important paragraph reads:

There is a risk that the grades will be a measure less of the quality of the teaching and the school, but more a reflection of the socioeconomic status of a student body, and how prepared students are to learn and succeed.
But, there is no issue of "risk"; it is a dead certainty that the attitudes and socioeconomic status of the students are just as important as the quality of the schools and teachers.

There are three reforms which taken together, over a few years, could remedy many of the learning problems resulting from student status and attitudes:

#1. Rigorous policies of retention for students, begining in early grades, who, despite having the intellectual ability, have not substantially mastered the skills at their grade level. These students have not done the work required to fulfill their potential. Obviously, students whose innate resources do not allow them to master the material, even with a sincere effort, cannot be treated the same as those who have failed to learn because of a lack of effort.

When intellectually able students are passed on to the next grade despite having failed to acquire the necessary skills, they are not ready to keep up at the next level of study; this will inevitably hold back the rest of their class while their deficiencies are remediated - or they will be left to fall even further behind.

#2. Students who do not possess the intellectual capacity to benefit by continued academic education should at the appropriate time be tracked into a vocational program suited to their abilities. To keep such students in the same classes as those who are college-bound is a waste of the time of the teachers and all of the students.

#3. An "excess disciplinary services" fee should be assessed against parents who refuse to actively participate in a program to modify their student's unsatisfactory and disruptive behavior. The purpose of such a fee would be to encourage the participation of parents in the education of their children. Failing to correct disruptive behavior cheats other students of opportunities to learn.