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May 09th, 2021
L&T Opinions Page

LETTER TO THE EDITOR, Starley Craig, Liberal

 

After receiving the information from Mr. Parks, the information czar for USD No. 480, I’ve come across some astounding practices that defy logic.

For the school year 2021-2022, the district will spend $750,000 on “instructional programs, professional learning and consultants” in the hope, apparently, that these incredibly wasteful services can make up for the fact that their staff is unable to transfer knowledge from themselves to their students.

Personally, I believe a good teacher needs little more than a textbook and some chalk, backed up with a strong principle and consistent discipline. That’s a simplification, I know, but that exact plan has worked for generations and would have a better chance of success than expensive programs whose synopses have words like “gamified,” “automaticity” and “phonological” in their sales pitches. 

There are 22 of these programs, all relying on computers instead of instructors and range in cost from a low of $6,245 to $203,777.60. There’s a product called Amplified Core Literacy Program, which costs $48,650 for “site license for online/digital reading.” I’d guess the median cost of each is around $15,000 a pop.

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In every single one, two factors stand out: They encourage grouping, or “differential learning” and peer teaching. Since virtually all of them promise individual attention, one has to assume the teacher/pupil ratio is one to one. Naturally all of them rely on computers. The cost to USD No. 480’s computers is simply mind boggling.

Let’s go over objective and subjective thinking. Subjective goals are generally very vague, wide, feel-good and immeasurable. Objective is the opposite.

Many of the programs have “phonemic awareness” in the description. Phonemic awareness has six syllables while “phonics” (sound) has a measly two. So the former is clearly better.

This specious reasoning is accepted by our board and administrators as they have signed up for a quarter of a million dollars’ worth. Let’s see what you, a parent or taxpayer, is getting for that figure which does not include salaries, upkeep, utilities, insurance, etc.

Success For All, Pathways to Reading, Structural Literacy, Magnetic Reading, Leader in Me, See Saw, Dream Box and on and on, ad nauseum. The strongest commonality is they are all computer programs.

They have one at a cost of $28,796 called “Learning Without Tears” that provides “developmentally appropriate, multisensory strategies” to be produced in handwriting.

Parents and taxpayers — you can get a copy of what your taxes are buying by simply calling Mr. Park. You will be “empowered” and perhaps angered enough to demand rationality.

Finally, I ask the board to call districts that have tried some of this stuff out. And I renew my challenge to find three juniors or seniors to demonstrate their mastery of the simple exchange of knowledge via the written word. 

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