‘We can't have it both ways'

| 22 Feb 2012 | 01:36

    John Collins’ analysis of education statistics does not tell us much about the quality education in the Monroe-Woodbury CSD (Letters Aug. 13). What he is looking at are merely raw data. They need to be adjusted for the population. Unless demographics are homogenous throughout the county, ranking by test scores is meaningless, to say nothing of reducing the value of an education to numbers on a pencil-and-paper test. Statistics need to be adjusted for the percent or number of English language learners, special needs children, foster children, and poverty level children that are in the district. Then school districts can be measured against comparable districts. Educating children requires all of society but is principally the responsibility of parents. I don’t think anyone will argue with that. So the old joke says that if you want to improve test scores and school performance, get more Asians to move into your community. Some parents value education more and are more effective teaching their children a work ethic for succeeding in school. Many parents, on the other hand, openly denigrate intellectual and academic pursuits as elitist even while complaining about the quality of academic education. I have heard this from outspoken Libertarians and Tea Partiers. But we can’t have it both ways. If we value intellectual pursuits, we will see the results in our children. If we don’t, we won’t. But an education cannot be summarized by test scores. There are plenty of smart people in the world, but are there enough good people? The first goal of the public schools has never been academic. It has always been social: to create good citizens. How can we tell if our schools are doing that? Any child can do well academically in any school. The cultural environment of the child makes the difference, including the attitudes, habits, and values of parents. And in a world where competing interests undermine the mission of the school, parents should take heart to know that theirs is still the pivotal role in their children’s education. K.J. Walters Monroe