EDITOR’S DESK: Back to school – no pressure

       School is starting up again this week in District 11. Once, that might have meant same-old, same-old, but not anymore. Midland has its International Baccalaureate program, Buena Vista has its Montessori and Washington its Core Knowledge.. Now here comes Bristol, working hard to make itself an arts magnet school, while Holmes starts its first year as a pre-Advanced Placement middle school, Ivywild moves toward becoming an intergenerational center and Whittier is developing programs of its own.
       It's painfully true, however, that no learning method/style/program has yet proven to be a miraculous cure-all for apathetic, rebellious, distracted or just plain slow students. Ironically, the Westside's most dramatic gains in the annual Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) testing were accomplished in a traditional-education classroom (as discussed in the article on Page 4 this issue about Buena Vista teacher Marilyn George). This is not a slap at the non-traditional methods, each of which makes an earnest, even scientific effort to strengthen students, in terms of knowledge streams, learning tools, academic challenges, thought organization and/or skill sets. But there's just no getting around the reality that if a teacher does not connect with his/her students on an individual level, it doesn't matter what kind of mojo the curriculum contains.
       When is education most crucial? An argument can be made for the high school level. It's fine and dandy if kids are hot readers in third grade; but if they test "partly proficient" in the 10th grade CSAPs, what kind of future do they have? District 11 showed 36 percent of its 10th-grade readers falling into that category in the 2005 CSAPs. At the same time, if educators neglect students in grade school, they may never come back.
       So, no pressure, teachers. But it's another year, and we're counting on you.

- K.J.