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State of Our Schools: Education Issues

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Many people think our country's future rests on how well we educate our children. There is growing concern that American children are falling behind. To check the state of our schools, we researched three different counties' school systems -- New Hanover, Pender and Columbus County. Using information from The Eastern North Carolina Poverty Committee, we found that the more money the student's families have, the better the students tend to perform on tests and passing rates. After talking to education leaders we found that low test scores and high drop out rates are a serious problem that could have a huge impact on our country's future and well-being. County to county, the state of our local schools is different. John Fischetti, UNCW Education Professor said, "Schools that have a large proportion of poor students, students with free or reduced lunch, students who may not have the support financially to accomplish that which other kids have, don't do as well as kids who have more support." In the 2003 to 2004 school year, in New Hanover County, 40 percent of children received subsidized meals. The average SAT score was 1037 and nearly 86 percent of students passed the end of grade tests. In Pender County, about 60 percent of the students received subsidized meals. The average SAT score was 965 and about 83 percent of students passed the end of grade tests. In Columbus County 70 percent of kids received subsidized meals. The average score on the SAT's was 888 and the end of grade pass rate was 73 percent. The gaps in these numbers correlate to the average household income in the three counties. The wealthiest county, New Hanover, shows the average household makes more than $16,000 more than households in Columbus County. You'll remember New Hanover also had the highest SAT scores, and end of grade pass rates. John Fischetti, said this is a good representation of what's going all across our state. "The schools that we've profiled that look like they're not doing that well are just reflecting the community in which they're in. They are not reflecting poor teaching," said Fischetti. So what's really going on in, and outside of our schools? Each principal concedes there's room for improvement. Robbie Cauley, Pender High Principal said, "We could use more teachers and there are two reasons for that. One it creates class size reduction." "One thing they need still is adult role models. If you want to get along in the real adult world create a bond and a link with an adult," said Cauley. East Columbus High School Asst. Principal Don Hill said, "We are trying to raise our test scores. I think we are at 50 percent proficiency and our goal of course is to get that up to the standard 70 percent." "If you have any kids dropping out they're missing out and we're missing out on what they can contribute," said Hoggard High School Principal Dave Spencer. Steve Bilzi is a former New Hanover County School Board Member and a parent. Bilzi goes back to the notion that a child's success in school begins at home. "Instead of the parents doing the parenting, the schools are the parents. They're the preachers, the social structure. They're required to teach character education -- all the things that should be done in the home," said Bilzi Tomorrow we'll have more on what is being done to try and fix some of the current issues with education, and education leaders will have suggestions on how they would improve the state of our schools for the future.

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The State Of Our Schools

Please allow me to try to enlighten you on this subject with a few suggestions. First of all, parents should become much more involved in the education of their children. Our teachers are overwhelmed by state and federal mandates that actually hender the educational process more often than not. They are not babysitters but are trained and educated professionals. I am not blindly supporting all teachers. When bad teachers are found in our school systems, they need to be removed! With that said, under current DPI policy, teachers are asked to do a difficult job and are held almost totally accountable for the educational and social progress of what often is a class loaded with students that are largely apathetic, disrespectful, and unwilling to take on any of the responsiblity for their own educational progress. Teachers are often promised clasroom improvements, upgrades in equipment, and salary increases that almost never turn out to be what they should be. Basic supplies often have to be purchased by the teachers themselves and this substandard level of support from our state is a disgrace. Part of the increading culture of student apathy may stem from many of the students in our area growing up in homes or around situations where there is very little real accountability or responsible behavior being modeled by adults. NC often rewards this irresponsible behavior with freebie social programs at the taxpayers expense. Is this an incentive for people to make something out of themselves and become independant or an incentive to continue to be a parasite on our taxpayers? Are young people that see this way of life likely to be highly motivated to work toward a lofty set of goals that will allow them have high level of achievment in school and become successful in life? Will they repeat this terrible cycle in front of the next generation? Our politicians should have the guts to put some of the educational and social responsibility back on the students and parents where it really belongs for a change. Of course this could effect their re-election so I doubt anything substantial will come about in the short term. Many young people are not made to do nearly as much at home as previous generations did. This lack of structure contributes to a poor work ethic which certainly spills over into the classroom. Parents might consider taking away some of the free time, getting their children off of the video games, cell phones, my space, facebook, etc. and putting a real book, or even some tools in their child's hands and showing them how to use them. They might also need to check up on the child more frequently to make sure their work is finsished properly when it is assigned at school and at home. I dare suggest that our state should change policies that would allow the removal of identified problem students and habitual failures earlier in the year from our public schools rather than trying to "save" everyone. Consider not making these types of "dropouts" part of the accountability model that teacher bonuses are tied to. "No Child Left Behind" is a nice politically correct slogan but in reality it is a JOKE as a policy and it is unattainable! Some folks do not want to learn, and not all are capable of learning at the same level. Our teachers, administrators, and school systems should not be held totally accountable for this. May I boldly suggest that students/parents be required by law to pay the actual cost(or a larger percentage of it) for repeating classes more than once insted of be allowed to take courses 2,3, even 4 times at the taxpayers expense. This idea puts some of the responsibility to attend class regularly, learn, and perform at a proficient level back on the student and parent(s). The taxpayers in NC have already paid for these habitual failures to have a go at it once, so why should we be burdened with the expense of paying for this over and over just to have these students sit in a class and do little more than become behavioral problems. Our state and many other states would do well to train some of these students in a vocation that would allow them to become successful and make a positive contribution to our society. I also believe that putting more prerequisites in place for advanced courses would reduce our failure rates and help to improve the classroom learning environment by screening out many potential failures. Ditch the E.O.C. tests or at least reduce their impact and let our teachers get back to the business of educating our young people in a more well-rounded way rather than focusing their lessons on passing a test at the end of a grade or specific course. Stop the flow of social programs that reward a parent or guardian with a check just because child shows up for a class once every few days/weeks might also help reduce failure rates. Hold these people accountable for their actions. If they choose to be unskilled, uneducated, abuse substances,participate in criminal activities, have families that are too large to properly raise and take care of, don't reward them for their poor choices. It will only perpetuate the cycle of ignorance. Before more readers complain about our public schools and teachers, let them offer some suggestions to the problems faced by our educators under the same obstacles and constraints. In closing, teachers salaries in NC and nationwide should be 50%-100% higher than current levels. Our state has repeatedly failed not only the students, but has failed to stand behind our educators in a major way and it is shameful! We should count our blessings that our educators have been able to do the good job they have done thus far considering what have been up against! Stand and deliver!

I think before anyone makes

I think before anyone makes a blanket comment about not doing the "job" as teachers, or parents not doing their "job," we need to step back and look at society as a whole. It is not just a parent who raises a child or a teacher who should totally "educate" them. Like the old saying goes... "it takes a village to raise a child." I am appalled at the last comment left about teachers NOT doing their "job." First of all teachers don't get paid crap and ARE left without support from many of their students homes. When a child comes in who has absolutely no manners, social skills, and is disrespectful is it actually the teachers "job" to totally teach them those aspects of being a well rounded individual? NO. That is everyone's job together; family, freinds, schools, and community. Schools are NOT FOR BABYSITTING, like many parents have begun to think. I myself am a parent who tries to stay as involved in my child's life as I can and I know it can be hard with work and all else that goes on. In my experiences it is the lower income children, who have been in classes with mine, whose parents never show up to help out with anything or whose number changes so often because they move from public housing to public housing that also end up being held back and falling behind... it is not the teachers we should be coming down on it is society's leniency on situations like this. I am sorry that maybe you did not have a "great" experience or feel that your child was let down, but to assume that it was just the teachers' doing is just ubsurd. My children have had WONDERFUL and not necessarily great teachers, but as a parent it is also my responsibility to stay involved and make sure these situations do not hinder my child's education. It is down right wrong to place the blame on ALL teachers.


I totally agree. And to boot, classes are over crowded and teachers can't teach the unwilling.

Education Issues???

A comment was made about the teachers doing the parenting and teaching,,,,,HOGWASH. The teachers are skating by making their money and going home. They see to it that our children are passing the end of grade tests and that's about it. My child was given these test's and was able to memorize the answers henceforth, a passing grade. It's all about the numbers guys not the education. We need to get back to the basics. Our children are expected to learn at a different level. Look at the generation before us and you will see the dropout rate almost non existant also, a huge success rate in every day life. I have never heard of a child being allowed to drop out of school at the age of sixteen without their parents approval. We have kids using drugs, drinking and killing each other in the streets. Parents need to take their control of children. Our kids have too many rights, this allows them to take control of us as parents, I've seen that first hand. My child was a product of the Pender County school system and they FAILED her. Needless to say, she is getting a much better education in a private school. Our family had to sacrafice, but she is worth it. Parents, get into the schools before it's too late for your child. The teachers are NOT getting it done. Our children don't learn based on our income, they learn in school and home should be the place to learn about everyday life, feeling safe being respectful and more important being loved.