Fix those schools at risk
By Kathleen A. Gamber
All of a sudden, because of the No Child Left Behind law signed by President Bush, there is extraordinary pressure for "vast test score improvement."
I do not believe Hawai'i generates sufficient money to finance known and effective programs to counteract the conditions that put students at risk. True, they budget for children with limited English proficiency and those with disabilities, but not for children designated at-risk.
Therefore, Hawai'i is not providing a general and uniform education to all.
Who is at risk? Ample data indicate that the best predictors of a school's performance are the homes from which the students come. Qualities such as the number of parents in the home, quantity and quality of reading matter in the home, the amount of television watched in the home, technology classes, and the amount of homework done are indicators of schools at-risk.
What about the rights of our students? Parents, students, administrators and teachers should demand disparity financing levels. Isn't the state in default of its obligations to provide a "general and uniform" education under our Constitution?
Through HSTA and regular politics, I have tried to make a difference in the system. It seems I have made a difference in my school. However, I am leaving the state for a better school system, superior pay and outstanding retirement benefits. I hope those left behind will consider filing a lawsuit to provide better education for the students.
I firmly believe it is unnecessary for at-risk students to suffer additional injury to their life chances while the state struggles to find extra money and devise ways to improve the derelict schools.
Nor it is necessarily fair to put more pressure on students to perform better when schools have a quarter to half of their teachers teaching outside of their subject area of training. Or with those schools trying to teach without enough books, or having 10 percent of their staff being long-term substitutes, or no computers (or even telephones) or insufficient counseling. The list goes on.
It is up to you, the people, to change the system and make a difference. First, file a lawsuit; second, support, get out and vote for those you believe will help the students. Third, demand an outside financial audit of the DOE for accountability it is way overdue. I'll be watching your progress from afar.
Kathleen A. Gamber recently finished 13 years as a teacher/counselor at Pahoa High School, listed as one of the Big Island schools in need of help.