We are all the cause of this
The news of Telstar High School receiving an “F” grade by the Maine Department of Education shocked me into writing this letter. I said to myself, “Clearly, there must be a smoking gun where I can point my finger and lay blame.” So, armed with my computer, off to the DOE website I went to find out “who done it,” “who can I be mad at,” and most of all “claim my own innocence.”
First off I noticed on the DOE website that not only were we graded F, but we scored the 120th worst out of 124 high schools. “Wow,” I said to myself, “someone’s head is going to roll for this one.”
Then I heard in the news that schools in poorer parts of the state generally scored lower, and everyone look at the percent of students enrolled in the free lunch program to see this correlation and therefore discount the significance of a poor grade. So off to that report I went to find (to the nearest percent) where Telstar HS was 48 percent versus the state average (for all grade levels) of 44 percent. Hmm, that seems like a red herring. Certainly not the reason for an F.
I reviewed a dozen or so more reports on the DOE Website trying to find that one data point to put my finger on as the “smoking gun”.
What I found were several data points:
The DOE Website reported on “Percent of Students with Discipline Events.” Telstar High had 10 percent, state average (for all grade levels) 3 percent. We spend 3 times the time dealing with discipline than the state average. This means we put our teachers and students at a disadvantage in dealing with discipline issues vs. learning. Who is responsible for maintaining discipline, the school, the parents/guardians, or the community? My answer is all of the above.
The DOE website reported on “Money Spent per Pupil.” While Telstar High School data was not available, SAD 44 reported spending about 6 percent more than the state average – didn’t seem that big of a deal until I dug into the details. Per Pupil, regular instruction is 18 percent less; special education, 34 percent less. So how do we end up paying more “all in” per pupil than the state average? Debt Service and Facilities combined were 25 percent more; School Administration 28 percent more. Now that’s something to dig into. We wonder why we rate poorly, yet our tax dollars are focused more toward maintaining buildings and administration than on the students versus the state average. As I look at our school buildings, I don’t see any posh classrooms or hallways. Who is responsible for how we spend tax money on our schools and maximize our resources toward learning, the selectmen, administration, or taxpayers? My answer is all of the above.
We are all the cause of this; it happened on our watch. It’s our responsibility to fix it.