Trouble in the schools

Dear Editor:
Ms. Theresa Burns claimed in this past week’s paper that the Kids First appointed Carter-Rusak team managed, in two years, to create a learning environment that resulted in an 18 percent drop in QSAC Instruction and Program scores. Since the same teachers and administrators were in place during the period in question, a district-wide curriculum was inaugurated, and specialists were hired to oversee its implementation, it’s hard to see how that could be. I would first look toward the test population for clues. There are so many variables at work: does school choice bring an in migration of students fleeing less desirable schools, or an out migration to charter schools? Did this group of test takers score similarly in previous tests, or did they really unlearn? Was there a subgroup of students included that was not in the previous test? (The scoring for this segment of QSAC is based on the NJ State assessment tests.) I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I’d try to find them before throwing stones.
I have no particular bone to pick with the voluble Ms. Burns. I have no connection to Kids First. Nor do I have an ax to grind, but as a former educator I am concerned. It saddens me, no, infuriates me, to see kids’ education held hostage by politics and by those who, while claiming to be concerned about educational outcomes, seem more interested in being right than doing right,
This much I do know, however. An elected school board is a distinct disservice to Hoboken’s students. It ensures a constant struggle between the B ‘n R’s and the yuppies. It is too political. It attracts a great deal of campaign money for an unpaid position. It is on a par with electing judges, which, fortunately, we don’t do in New Jersey. What an elected school board does not do in Hoboken is provide a consistent, focused, congenial group of mature adults whose only goal is the betterment of public education.
Those who think an appointed school board is undemocratic in that it removes the board from direct public control, consider this: how many talented, knowledgeable, serious people would make good board members but don’t want to raise money, campaign, or subject themselves to mud-slinging and character assassination for what is essentially a thankless job? Leave that to the mayor and council who would appoint them. It isn’t a perfect solution, nothing in a democracy is, but it sure beats the situation we’re now in.
Several years ago I read “Yuppies Invade My House at Dinnertime,” a collection of letters to the editor of the Hoboken Reporter in the mid 1980’s. Many were angry, some amusing, some well-written and erudite. But they all addressed the battle between the B ‘n R’s and the Yuppies. And the battle still rages.

R.Y. Bice

© 2000, Newspaper Media Group