Good Luck

July 31st, 2021
L&T Opinions Page



I would like to express my deep appreciation for Earl Watt and the Leader & Times for permitting Liberal’s citizens to express opinions and even question the institutions of this town.

I’ve written a lot of letters about USD No. 480, hoping that some questions I have might be the same questions others have considered. In my last letter to the paper, I asked about the ability to ask the right questions. As an introduction to the right questions, I told of a contest between Russia and the USA as to who made better automobiles. At Russia’s insistence, a race was run in Russia. After the contest, the Soviet newspaper quoted the results: “The Russians came in a strong second place while the Americas were dismally next to last.”

The report is absolutely true. What question came to your mind? If you were trying to figure out how the Russians did so much better than the Americans, you’re asking the wrong question.

When I asked Mr. Parks, USD No. 480’s information source, he hesitated and said, “Who came in first?” Oh my, yes! He saw immediately the fallacy — there were only two cars.

Why can’t we ask the right questions?

First, USD No. 480 has spent for this year nearly $1 million for “programs” to help staff improve pupil outcome. The brochures are filled with clichés and controlled vocabulary.

So, here’s a question: What happened to the last thousands of dollars of programs? If they were all as valuable as advertised, why are they not enough? Or still being used?

Secondly, are the staff and administrators so bad at choosing from all the junk offered by the feather merchants that they always buy the wrong stuff? So that they have to buy another million dollars the next year hoping they’ll get it right this time?

Can it be that faced with a huge buffet of program goodies and an apparently unlimited budget, they lose all perspective?

Third, if all the programs purchased were actually in use, the school day would have to be two weeks long.

A little off the subject, but what does AVID stand for? I want to ask the right questions here as there was absolutely no information about the program or its cost. Is there additional cost for a program we must already have if it is moved to another school in the district?

It must be a doozy because it is described as one of the only opportunities for professional development with such vague terms as “path trainings” and promises to “positively impact the whole district and every student that the trained teacher educates.”

Now the right questions: What does that mean? If you don’t take AVID are you considered untrained? What does it do that a university doesn’t?

Teachers already know how to educate students, and the components of AVID are subjective only.

All the sales pitches for these hundreds of programs, sold to corporations and school districts, are so alike that I’ll bet the board or staff couldn’t identify which program these promises come from.

Can you name these programs?

• Offers multisensory strategies ($28,796).

• Student-led learning ($15,637).

• Culturally relevant text ($27,300).

• Strategic pairing and small group differentiation ($98,369).

• Phonological awareness ($19,980).

If you are a school board member or a teacher or a parent, you might be able to either define these or identify which USD No. 480 program they are from.

Folks, I believe you spend more time choosing a sofa for your living room than you do choosing — at the staff’s recommendation — a program you can’t even recall what it is supposed to do.

Define these programs:

• Achieving personalization ($16,000)

• Reinforced with rubric?

• Phonological definition?

I suggest you put a moratorium on spending on programs so you will be forced to rely on the intelligence, strength and knowledge of your human teachers.

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