The opinion section in today's Oregonian was packed full of good ideas about how to improve the public schools. Actually, the question uniting the comments was narrower - how do you make needed improvements at our weakest schools? - but the answers really seemed to apply to all. Parents, educators, students and others were asked for their ideas. The results are well worth reading.
A whole lot of what was offered includes concepts rarely heard around campaigners for office.
A superintendent at a rural school district suggested, "First, year-around school. . . . Retention would improve as students wouldn't have to be "re-taught" material the first month of school. Secondly, promotion from grade to grade would be based on meeting state standards and testing, instead of "social" promotion." Why aren't these concepts pushed more?
There's this: "Stop "reforming" schools every year based on the latest fad or political sound bite. It creates a lack of instructional and curricular continuity, and wastes precious resources."
From a student, on why declining schools get into a death spiral: "The main reason that students do not choose to go to a lower performing school: electives. Or, more accurately, the lack thereof. When not enough students go to one school, the government pulls funding from it, forcing the school to cut the electives." (Here's someone who understands how systems work.)
Some political figures came up with some good stuff. Senator Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg: "Teachers need to have the freedom to teach and motivate their students. As it is now teachers have to spend too much time filling out reports to comply with any number of mandates and too much class time simply teaching for test scores that in many cases are probably not a true measure of education."
But the weakest comments came from the two candidates for superintendent of public instruction: Both of their answers almost seemed to suggest they didn't understand thw question.