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Education - Minneapolis School Board 2002
Goal 3: Opportunity and Support
The first two goals of my campaign deal with the need to create and enforce knowledge-based standards. Education is the bedrock on which the future is built, and we need to guarantee that the foundation we provide to our children is a firm one.
But our educational system should not be a lowest common denominator; it should be about giving our children the opportunity to be the best they can be.
The great fallacy of our school system as it exists today is the demand for conformity. Instead of acknowledging that different students learn different skills at different rates, our current system demands a rote progression defined by some sort of mythical average: If a student is capable of achieving more than that average, they are held back. If a student is unable to maintain the pace demanded by that average, they are dragged along in ignorance.
There needs to be opportunity for our best students; support for our worst. We can no longer endorse a system whose first interest is making sure that no one feels bad about themselves. An educational system must encourage success, or it will breed only failure.
By the same token, we must be careful: A mistake of the past has been segregating students into “smart” groups and “dumb” groups. The educational system should not be about choosing which students are going to be given a chance to succeed and which students are not: The system should give the same opportunities to all students, and those opportunities should never be taken away. A student who needs help in third grade should be given the chance to blossom in twelfth.
Implementing opportunity means allowing students to prove they are capable of more – and that requires a standard against which they can measure themselves. Implementing support means allowing students to see where they need to be – and that, too, requires a standard against which they can measure themselves.
Principle of Opportunity
If a five year old is capable of doing what a high school senior can do, then the five year old should be given the same educational opportunities as that high school senior. Because otherwise we’re cheating that five year old of their potential: Instead of teaching our children what they can be, we are telling them what they can’t.
Opportunity – Extracurricular Classes: Let’s offer extra classes as an extracurricular activity. Our schools are already open to support sports, theater, debate, and other after-school activity, why not take the extra ounce of effort to give those students who want to learn more the chance to learn more?
Opportunity – Independent Study: At the high school level, the challenge of setting standards which allow students to get ahead is that students will exceed the opportunities we have defined for them. But if a student is capable of outrunning our system, then the student is capable of charting their own course. Independent study programs will allow them to define their own curriculum, and post-secondary opportunities will give them additional opportunities to get ahead in their preparation for college or the professional world.
Opportunity – Support for Gifted Students: At the elementary level, the challenge of setting standards which allow students to get ahead is supporting those students who are gifted in certain areas. In some cases, students will be best served by skipping grades. In other cases, special study groups will allow those with an aptitude for math or science or art to push themselves to whatever level of excellence is right for them.
Principle of Support
If a sixth grader has not yet learned the things a sixth grader needs to learn, then the sixth grader is not yet ready for the seventh grade. Indeed, promoting them to the seventh grade would be a punishment, because we would only be forcing them into failure.
Support – Kindergarten Plus: There is a great disparity between the students who enter kindergarten for the first time. If we can win this one, big battle – and even the playing field before students enter the first grade – then all our other battles become easier. Many disadvantaged students will be able to benefit for Kindergarten Plus – a summer program which would extend kindergarten education for those who need it.
Support – Summer Self Study: At higher levels, district-supported self study programs will allow students to catch up – or move ahead – through home study.
Support – After School Study: Opportunities will be made available for after school study, to give additional help to those students who need and want it.
Knowledge, not process.
Teachers, not bureaucrats.
Education, not socialization.
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