Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Education Problems in Christian County

My thoughts on the topic aren't brilliant.

Christian County, KY, is in the middle of an education crisis that's been coming for years. Finally, public outrage has been ignited.

The radical and innovative Kentucky Education Reform Act was implemented in the early 1990s, about the time my daughter started first grade. Since then, a tremendous amount of time and effort has been dedicated to creating student writing portfolios, as required by law. However, no education miracles have happened in this county.

In fact, the opposite has been true. We're graduating illiterate high school seniors who aren't prepared for the work world. Our schools' test scores are low by both state and national standards. We've even become one of Kentucky's worst school districts.

According to statewide test scores for the 2006-07 school year, Christian County Public Schools ranks 164th out of 175 Kentucky school districts.

The entire community should endeavor to change that, [Hopkinsville Mayor Dan] Kemp said.

“Having an educated workforce is the main key to a successful economy and a higher quality of life,” Kemp said.

The mayor coordinated the first Community Education Summit with Superintendent Dr. Bob Lovingood, the Hopkinsville-Christian County Chamber of Commerce and Hopkinsville Community College President Dr. Jim Selbe. HCC will host the summit.

Source: "Education event seeks unification", by Joe Parrino, Staff Writer, Kentucky New Era, January 5, 2008

The mayor's summit was held last weekend. Community agencies and officials, state education officials, representatives from successful school districts in the region, and our own school administrators and board members met with interested members of the public. Speeches were made and workshops were held.

Now the good folks on the Hoptown Hall forum are hashing it over. Most of them seem to be concerned that the Christian County schools aren't challenging their bright kids to excel.

I know that problem exists. Certainly, my kids weren't challenged to excel by many of their teachers (though they both had a few great teachers.) Still, though my kids came through the worst schools in a county of substandard schools, they did very well on their ACTs when they were high school seniors.

How can this be? Well, I believe it happened because we made reading a part of their lives from infancy. They wanted to read for themselves, and they were thrilled when they could! They were thoroughly convinced that books were wonderful. They quickly became hungry readers, and to a large extent, they educated themselves. In addition, we expected them to behave themselves and do well at school.

I think it's nice for bright students to get special attention at school, but I just can't get myself agitated about it being one of the worst problems with education in Christian County. It seems to me that we ought to get agitated about young adults who graduate from high school but can't read.

But even if we try to do a better job of teaching reading, there are so many social factors that affect how well our students learn at school. In Christian County, many of our children come from homes where drug abuse is a problem. We have a lot of low-income families. Many of them don't have two parents in the home.

Perhaps the worst problem we face is that many parents have an apathetic or even an antagonistic attitude toward the schools. Negative parent attitudes contribute to all sorts of discipline problems.

Most of the social problems aren't going to be changed by holding public meetings about local education, but maybe at least the public attitude toward the schools will become a little more cooperative. I hope so.


Keely said...

As a product of that school system, I have my own theory on the problem. They have made it impossible to fail a student for anything other than behavior problems unless they are in high school. So if little Johnny is obnoxious, he'll be held back, but if he can't read, well to bad because he's going on anyway. This holds until they get to high school and then they look at you and go "I have no clue what went wrong".

Genevieve said...

Hi, Keely. I do remember a little boy who had major reading problems who was held back from your class at the end of third grade. (As it happened, he was rather obnoxious as well.) Undoubtedly, there were others who shouldn't have been passed. I think maybe they've been so anxious to avoid "stigmatizing" kids with learning problems that they've been reluctant to pull them out and give them the help they need at an early age.

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