Not in the best interest of kids

As a retired educator, I found Jim Mullen’s July 7 article very disturbing. His use of innuendo and his lack of factual data to back up his assertions were a disservice to the hard-working teachers and administrators of Wood County Schools, not to mention Wood County students.

First, does Mr. Mullen really believe that “the progressive indoctrination of and failure to teach critical thinking and basics in education is deliberate and calculated (emphasis mine) to funnel another generation into government dependency?” Over the years Wood County Schools has provided teachers and administrators with countless hours of professional development so that they can more effectively teach critical thinking skills, mathematics, and language arts basics. I wonder if Mr. Mullen bothered to check into professional development initiatives provided by WCS in recent years.

Secondly, the article states that “State/local boards and administrations … learned how to increase (emphasis mine) the number of ‘qualifying’ children on the free breakfast and lunch programs” so that the schools may receive more federal funding. This statement insinuates that educators throughout West Virginia have been engaged in an illicit conspiracy to garner federal funds. As such, it is an insult to their integrity and trivializes the poverty that so many of our youngsters deal with every day.

Finally, Mr. Mullen states “that the only practical solution for meaningful improvement is competition,” which he identifies as a voucher program. Voucher advocates have argued that vouchers improve student achievement and also serve as a catalyst for improving schools in general. But what does the research reveal? In 2009, Cecelia E. Rouse of Princeton University and Lisa Barrow of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago published a review of numerous existing studies of vouchers in Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Washington, D.C. They found that there were “relatively small achievement gains for students offered educational vouchers, most of which are not statistically significant from zero.”

I might add that a team of researchers that included both supporters and critics of vouchers implemented a five-year longitudinal study in Milwaukee. They found similar scores between voucher students and students in regular public schools.

I agree with Mr. Mullen that educational improvement is needed, especially for children of poverty. However, using ideological bias and innuendo as opposed to facts as the basis for denigrating our educators is definitely not in the best interest of our students.

Frank Bono