Roundup; Opinions on the News Good News for Intervene Schools

The Florida Times Union, July 19, 2011 | Go to article overview

Roundup; Opinions on the News Good News for Intervene Schools


Sometimes government officials do the right thing.

When that happens, it's worth a cheer.

That was our reaction when we learned that interim Education Commissioner John Winn changed his mind and suggested that control of Duval County's four struggling schools be kept with the Duval County public schools.

The immediate reason, as reported Saturday in the Times-Union, is that there simply is not enough time before the new school year starts in a few weeks.

This was the move that this editorial page supported all along.

To summarize:

- The Duval County School Board deserved more time to allow its turnaround plan to work. The board finally seems to be concentrating on what matters, which is the shocking reading deficit among many high school students.

Previous policy involved force-feeding Advanced Placement tests for students who can't read at grade level. Former board member Brenda Priestly Jackson had made that point to little effect when Joey Wise was the superintendent.

- A new group established by the board, Duval Partners for Excellence, got off to a troublesome start, holding meetings in secret, making important decisions with little public input and acting without contact from the students and parents it would be supposedly serving.

- At the high school level, successful turnaround efforts are few and far between. This is a point that needs to be remembered when people latch onto silver bullets, magical thinking and the latest fad. This is hard work, especially when students are far behind in reading.

The KIPP Impact school provided that proof when its first class of fifth-graders earned an F grade from the FCAT, despite extra class hours and extra spending.

The state Board of Education still needs to sign off on Winn's recommendation, but signs are promising.

Reaction was elation, relief, thanks to God and a commitment to make a difference in the coming year.

READING IN HIGH SCHOOL

What happens to Jacksonville students who can read OK in elementary school but gradually lose the ability by high school?

In short, reading comprehension.

What does that mean?

Primarily two things: lack of vocabulary and limited ability to think, to use strategies to sort out the meaning through context.

So how do you turn that around in the limited time in school?

Companies are developing software programs that allow students to click on an unfamiliar word and learn its meaning in several different contexts.

Another is to integrate vocabulary instruction into every class.

Nothing can take the place of large blocks of time spent on reading, but it pays to use instruction time efficiently.

MAYOR'S PROMISING BUDGET

Mayor Alvin Brown was quietly attending budget meetings in the year before the election, building a base of knowledge for his first year as mayor. …

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