I was dismayed to read the Deseret News yesterday and discover that 5 of the 10 worst schools in our state last year are in the Ogden School District.
Here is the snapshot of the lowest performers (click to enlarge):
This report is an abomination.
What is happening in the Ogden School District?
I live across the street from Dee School. In fact, my oldest daughter attended Dee for kindergarten in 2008 before being put in the advanced learning program for 1st grade which was held at Heritage Elementary across town. My second daughter Wynnie attended kindergarten at Dee in 2010, the year these test scores were produced. Wynnie tested 100% on her end-level tests for the 1st grade at Ogden Preparatory Academy (a charter school) this year.
From personal experience, I don't believe throwing more money at schools is going to cure the problem we have. I also don't believe the transient student base is as large of a problem as its made to be. You see, I was a transient student and attended the following schools growing up:
1983-1985 Hillcrest Elementary - American Falls, Idaho
1985 Shelley Elementary - Shelley, Idaho
1986 Westside Elementary - Idaho Falls, Idaho
1986 Four Georgians Elementary - Helena, Montana
1986-1987 Adelaide Elementary - Bountiful, Utah
1987-1988 Woodland Hills Elementary - Kingwood, Texas
1988 Kingwood Middle School - Kingwood, Texas
1988-1989 Westside Elementary - Idaho Falls, Idaho (Yes, I suffered the indignity of going from middle school back to an elementary school system in a different state.)
1989-1991 Kingwood Middle School - Kingwood, Texas
1991-1995 Kingwood High School - Kingwood, Texas
Of all the schools I attended in the different states, Texas by far had the most serious education system at the time. Their no-guff attitude and strictness translated into excellent classroom behavior and high expectations of students and faculty. That, in turn, translated into better performance on tests.
Texas schools are funded strictly on property tax. There is no income tax in Texas. So, the inner city schools are "rich" relatively speaking and their school buildings are palaces as funding from property taxes paid on skyscrapers is much much more than it is on suburban residential homes. Nevertheless, the inner city schools of Houston were always languishing in performance, despite the significant financial upper hand.
I attended a very poor high school in Texas. Yet, we produced some of the highest grades in the school district we were in. What was the difference between my school and others? Answer: A culture of discipline and high expectations.
Thus, I believe Ogden's problem is not a financial one but one of attitude and workplace culture. If we want Ogden schools to fail, all that is require is for us to continue doing what we are doing right now. It's an easy road. If we want to change this shabby performance, we need to do things differently...and in a big way.
For example, if a child brings a switchblade to school, that child needs to be disciplined. There needs to be consequences. We don't need to ignore the kid because "getting attention is what the child really wants" and so ignoring his misdeed somehow becomes the perverse answer to encouraging better behavior. We need solid discipline.
However, this kind of change will require fortitude and toughness. People don't like changes in the status quo. I know this. I changed the status quo in my neighborhood so much that my life was threatened. But, you don't see pimps and hookers running the show in my neighborhood anymore either. We prevailed by taking some risks and sticking to our big plan for change.
I am eager to hear innovative suggestions from the education community on how we can turn this situation around. Do we need to open an ESL only school? Do we need to allot state money directly to the schools instead of letting it trickle down through the districts for better or for worse? I want to know how we can turn these lemons into big juicy apples.
I don't want to point blame. I just want results. So let's get to work! Email or call me with your suggestions.