To the editor:

The upcoming Community Conversation will be focusing on education and how to improve it. I wonder, do we have a defined goal in mind? Do we even know what that goal looks like? Do we believe that every child in the ConVal district should ultimately achieve a perfect score on the SAT’s? That might seem ridiculous but it highlights the challenge of defining success. Does “success” mean just being better than average on some broad-scale test metric? Is that realistic? I think of Garrison Keillor on a Prairie Home Companion when he signs off with “Where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all of the children are above average.” While listeners may chuckle over the hubris, is that the elusive goal that we’re really seeking?

I looked at the ConVal district NECAP scores from 2007 to 2013 across grades and in math and reading. The scores mirror the average state score. Does this mean we are failing? Shouldn’t we be at the top? We do spend more per pupil than the average, shouldn’t that get us a better result? Aren’t our children, like in Lake Wobegon, all “above average?”

Is the “problem” our education system or is the “problem” that we have unrealistic expectations about what our schools can achieve and what money can buy?

I hope the panelists in the upcoming Community Conversation will address how to achieve “success” that is specifically defined and actually measurable.

Tricia Saenger


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