Kudos to Indy Star’s “Our Children…” Series

After a visit to a few local blogs, I’m not the only one who voiced disappointment at the Indianapolis Star’s decision to make their special report on IPS School #61’s 2010-2011 Kindergarten classes.. After I read the entire article, I so wanted to share it with my online friends via Facebook, Twitter, and email groups. Alas, to go to the Star’s website to discover the Page One article available only in print. One would have to purchase the entire Sunday edition — with all the sections, funnies, and reams of advertisements — just to read this one story. I posted on Let It Out, the Star’s reader forum, as well on Twitter, how disappointed to learn the Star seems not to want to share this timely story with the world. With public schools, student achievement (or the lack of it), poverty, teacher expectations, and parenting commanding attention all over the country, one would think the folks in charge at the Star would want the USA to know, “Hey, Indianapolis has the same problems.” Maybe the complaints sand in.

As linked above, the Star finally relented to put this ongoing series online. The series Our Children Our City explores how poverty, low expectations, and poor parenting go hand in hand with poor academic achievement and an escalating high school dropout rate. Looking at this Gallery of School 61’s 2010-2011 kindergarten classes, all those wide-eyed five and six-year olds so eager to learn and “be somebody when I grow up,” it’s unsettling to think of all the odds stacked against them. How many of these youngsters will repeat kindergarten next year? How many, even if passed on from one grade to the next, will not have mastered basic reading and math skills. How many, out of frustration, will simply give up, acting out that frustration with constant class disruptions, fighting, bullying, frequent absences.

Last year, the Star’s columnist, Matthew Tully, spent an entire school year at Manual High School on Indy’s Southside. That series, The Manual Project is still online and still garners attention to what’s really ailing our urban public schools. I won’t rehash Tully’s Manual series nor the current one at IPS #61. Both should be required reading for every politician and top-tier government official who so voice so desperately, “Let’s fix our schools. Here’s how.” They plunge ahead with policies that are mere band-aids to a deeply entrenched problem. They never ask the ones who are in the trenches, the ones who truly try to make the difference between success and failure: The teachers and students.

I’ll let you read it yourselves then make the judgment call. In the meantime, I have a few ideas and theories on what does work to ensure academic success. All children can learn but it takes more than additional state and federal standards which lead to more standardized tests and empty rote memorization.

Right now I just would like to thank the Star for allowing this highly praised series online. I’m looking forwards to more on IPS #61’s 2010-2011 kindergarten classes.

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