Every Monroe City School Board member that represents a size-able number of African-Americans, has at least one opponent in the November election; all of the opponents are giving the same reasons for running; the system has failed to educate poor children.
To its credit, the present school board has built beautiful buildings that include a $2 million choir building for Carroll High school’s twenty member choir and a million dollar medical magnate building was also built. Wossman is getting a new field house and Neville’s building is being rehabilitated.
What the board has not spent any time discussing for the last decade is the development of a curriculum to help its students ready themselves for life. Its only interest has been meeting minimum state standards designed to prepare workers for expected industries in the state, but beyond meeting the state’s requirements, the district has no curriculum of its own.
From the first day of school to the last, every single city school focuses on one thing, getting an improved score on the state test eight months later. The Holy Grail is to get an improved letter grade from the state. They don’t have to worry about meeting local school board standards because the local board has no requirements beyond the minimum requirements the state promotes.
The City Schools begin in August and take state tests in April, but spend February and March preparing for the April test. When the tests end all instruction that matters to the district stops. The remaining 40-45 days are filled with field trips, videos and play time, with a few exceptions.
There was a time when school’s taught all the way to the last day, to meet local goals. Today, our district’s schools actually stop the day after state testing ends because there are no locally mandated standards to meet. There is no district school report card, so school stops.
When the district has 45 days of downtime, not counting all of the long holidays it builds in by putting teacher in-service days on the Friday before the holidays, it is obvious that there is enough time to meet its own curriculum; the board simply does not care about curriculum matters.
The absence of a local curriculum above and beyond what’s mandated by state or federal law is a major weakness of the Monroe City Schools and is a contributor to the district’s steady decline in enrollment as students flock to private schools and homeschooling networks.
Consider these curriculum weaknesses:
The state tests reading skills, but it doesn’t require students to read whole books or recognize those who do. Developing the discipline to read an entire book and not “answer search” could be a part of the district’s curriculum.
The state doesn’t think much of social studies and history. The state tests social studies but tells districts that it really doesn’t really count. The district could make social studies, civics, and history a priority in its curriculum, especially as it relates to how government operates.
The state doesn’t test the arts at all. Music, dance, theater, visual art, and literature, are not included on the state test. The law requires certain disciplines for gifted students, and a few individual teachers go above and beyond out of their own pockets in these areas. However, the district has no curriculum requirements beyond what the law mandates.
The state doesn’t require cursive writing. Since it is not testable, the state does not evaluate a student’s ability to read and write cursive; to the state, it’s not important. The district’s curriculum could make that a requirement.
The state doesn’t measure memorization of poems, the preamble to the Constitution, or even reading the Declaration of Independence. It doesn’t measure a student’s ability to write a term paper, manage a sample stock portfolio or how to sit at a table and eat properly. The state doesn’t recognize home management instruction or business ownership instruction. The test only measures critical thinking skills; the rest is left up to the district.
The problem is our district doesn’t require anything other than the state test; that’s it. There is no Monroe City standard to meet, no letter grade that includes a school’s state performance and the expectations of the local district.
This board spent its entire term discussing new buildings, putting names on buildings, calling each other names, and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting lawsuits.
Our community has been hurt the most; that’s why every board member who represents a large percentage of black residents has one or more opponents.
With five new faces on the board, maybe the direction will change.
We thank the incumbents for their service, but we can’t afford four more years of the same.