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Your Opinion: Academy weakness concerns educator

Your Opinion: Academy weakness concerns educator

September 25th, 2013 by Mary Ellen Laden, Jefferson City in News

Dear Editor:

Well over a decade ago, when Dr. Richard Pemberton and the staff at JCHS originally investigated academies, research showed that 20 percent more teachers would have to be hired in order for academies to succeed. Today when JCHS looks at implementing academies, in order to avoid hiring more teachers, the administration has turned to embedded credits, an idea that really concerns me as a 32-year veteran of the secondary classroom. Core classes - English, science, math, and history - will loose instructional time to these embedded credits.

An example of embedded credits at work could be this. Sophomore English is already integrated with biology (at least 40 students with a science teacher and an English teacher). Because there aren't enough certificated speech teachers for each academy, students will give presentations in English and/or other core classes in order to receive credit for a speech class. If those students also go to a computer/technology class for training on Edmodo, cloud storage, etc., that student will receive a total of four credits while in one class of bio/lit.

This practice not only takes valuable instructional time from core classes but also gives only a surface introduction to true public-speaking skills or a true understanding of technology. Why would we want our students to barely touch the surface of a subject and receive full credit? This idea of skimming the surface of a skill is worrisome because it is not true education, but embedding will occur at JCHS through the academy system.

This practice of going into a technology class for instruction on specific programs is not education; it is training. Training a student makes him good at one task; educating a student to think and reason means he has skills to perform all kinds of tasks. As of May during my last academy meeting, Simonsen would implement this training concept this year. We cannot succumb to embedded credits.

Our Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) score of 77, our score of 6/10 for our lower ACT scores and other indicators show that our students need more quality instruction in core classes, not less. Our district should not sacrifice student learning because it can't hire more teachers for academies while willingly hiring all kinds of new administration and creating new, high-paying board office positions.

Parents and school patrons should educate themselves about all the changes academies will bring.