Communications key to improved learning programs

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Are the McCook Public Schools turning out reading robots?

Probably not.

Are school officials trying their best to do the job they have been assigned?


But Monday night's two-hour, emotional citizen forum illustrates just how important perceptions are and how vital communication is.

Not just between the teacher and student; that's a given.

But also between administration, teachers, parents and the general public. Certainly, "gag" orders, as have been alleged by some, are not in order, and classroom visits by parents should be welcome, so long as they do not disrupt instruction.

It's easy to talk tough on education through initiatives like "No Child Left Behind"; get rid of incompetent teachers and pay good teachers more, crack down on schools that don't measure up.

It's harder when your child comes home from school, disoriented and confused over a new system of learning that might not fit his or her learning style.

McCook Public Schools are participating in a reading grant program, using the latest in "research-based" instruction for reading, as well as the "Direct Instruction" system for reading and other subjects.

Educators won't often admit to "teaching to the test," but it's clear that many such initiatives are just that -- improving students' performance on state test scores to keep the funding coming.

And it's true that without decisive action, reading scores are likely to decline.

But lost somewhere in the discussion is the joy of learning, the pleasure of enjoying a good book, the excitement of obtaining new information that opens up a new worlds.

Somehow we need to strike a balance between fulfilling government edicts that have as much to do with politics as true education, and allowing teachers to do the job they love in the way their students will learn the most.

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