Monday, September 27, 2004


Among the comments on last week’s series about giving students expensive laptop computers were several from people who said that going high-tech is just another sign that schools have lost sight of their marching orders from the public -- that they make our children literate, numerate, productive good citizens in a well-run, cost-effective manner.

The sentiment was summed up by a Texas education leader, Donna Garner, in an email message Sunday. She said that what we keep doing is buying more Band-Aids instead of solving the underlying problem –- which is that kids aren’t learning how to read, think and figure as well as they used to, and as well as they should.

Instead, she pointed out, we buy them more expensive technology to gloss over their academic deficiencies. We hire more teachers’ assistants. We think up catchy new acronyms for new initiatives and interventions. We hire more tutors. We reshape school into smaller units, such as ‘’Schools Within Schools.’’ We bring in distance learning and self-paced computer labs. We put in costly block-scheduling. We put kids in ‘’cooperative group learning’’ programs. We tie up hours and hours of classtime teaching them to make PowerPoint presentations with very little substance but lots of pizzazz.

The latest thing in Texas, she says, is that now, ALL students are in classes that are being labeled ‘’college preparatory.’’ So a high-school student who never mastered the multiplication tables he should have in third grade can at least go into a classroom marked “Algebra I’’ and feel good about himself, I guess.

Also of concern in Texas is a Houston Chronicle article over the weekend revealing that the State of Texas pays Houston Community College $250 to $300 for every remedial course taken by a student enrolled there. Remedial courses are skyrocketing for college freshmen, a clear sign of K-12 deficiencies. So, the article concludes, taxpayers pay twice to educate the same students, once in public schools at $7,000 to $9,000 per student per year, and again in remedial courses in college.

Ooh. Ouch. She’s talking sense. And all those signs are here in Nebraska. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

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