What price mediocrity?
By Agnes Moran
October 15, 2008
In the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District the price is
$1,229,476.00. That is the amount the district has appropriated
for the Tongass School of Arts and Sciences for this school year.
$1.2 million buys a school that is failing our students so badly
that it is in danger of Federal Intervention because of failure
to make Adequate Yearly Progress in some areas. The costs don't
end with the annual appropriation because once the students escape
Tongass School; additional funds have to be spent to bring a
significant percentage of the Tongass students up to the level
of their peers. Tongass School is the only failing elementary
school in the school district.
Historically, Tongass School has always been the poorest performing
grade school in the school district. Tongass School has never
lived up to the goal promised in its charter application of 80%
average proficiency rating congruent with No Child Left Behind.
In reality, non-Caucasian and economically disadvantaged students
at Tongass School run a great risk of being left behind. (Note
that Tongass School has essentially the same percentage mix of
students as all of the other grade schools in the school district
with the exception of Pt. Higgins.)
Out of curiosity, I charted the results of the 3rd grade standards
based assessment (SBA) tests for the district for school years
ending 2006, 2007, 2008. These SBA tests are an important indicator
of future school performance for students even though they are
a measure of minimum competency. My numbers are derived from
the most recent Report Card to the Public and were presented
to the School Board at their regular meeting on October 8th.
For Tongass School, it wasn't a pretty picture. During this time
period, an average of 21% fewer Tongass School students were
performing at a proficient level in reading and in math and an
average of 4% fewer students in writing compared to the school
district average of all of the grade schools.
The picture gets grimmer if you compare Tongass School's performance
on these tests to the only other charter school in the district,
Ketchikan Charter School. An average of 31% fewer Tongass students
were performing at a proficient level in reading and in math
and an average of 12% fewer students were at a proficient level
in writing than Ketchikan Charter School students during this
I appreciate that test scores are only a snapshot of what takes
place during a school year. I do volunteer in the classroom
on a weekly basis and have done so since my children entered
school. I understand the challenges teachers and support staff
face providing a quality education for students with a wide range
of abilities. I think it is very unfair to the other elementary
schools in the district that are working hard to educate our
children and are making progress in so many areas to allow Tongass
School's poor performance to continue.
In today's environment of shrinking budgets and dropping enrollment
I don't believe that we can afford to continue to support a substandard
school. The contract between the Tongass School of Arts and Sciences
and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District contains a
stipulation that the contract may be terminated for "Tongass
School's failure to meet educational achievement goals".
Tongass School has never met its educational achievement goals.
Tongass School has never met its commitment to our children or
to the community as a whole. The time has come to exercise this
option in the contract.
I don't challenge any parent's right to knowingly accept a substandard
education for their child. I do however challenge their right
to ask me as a taxpayer to pay for it. I cannot in good conscience
support any School District request for school funding to the
cap while they continue to squander $1,229,476.00 of taxpayer
About: " Local parent
concerned about education and involved in our schools."
Received October 15, 2008 -
Published October 15, 2008
Viewpoints - Opinion Letters:
Your Opinion Letter to the Editor
Note: Comments published
on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.
E-mail your letters
& opinions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Your full name, city and state are required for publication.
Stories In The News