In 1999, the U.S. education system was ranked first in the world. By 2009, the U.S. had dropped to 18th place. The U.S. is now behind all industrialized nations and even several third world nations.
In 2019, Great Falls Public Schools reported to the U.S. Dept. of Education that of our graduating class, 54% were NOT ready for college or career. GFPS also reported that 67% of our high school students are below proficiency in math, 61% below proficiency in science, and 58% below proficiency in reading. The percentages from last year are even worse. Simply put, the majority of students in the GFPS system are performing below grade level!
The mission on the GFPS website clearly states: “We successfully educate students to navigate their future”. The first thing we need to do is to face the truth of our situation. We are failing at our mission. We are not successfully educating our students. We are not setting them up to ‘navigate their future.’ Since the district’s mission is educating students, both the trustees and administration are failing the students and the community.
We also must be honest with our students. When a student fails to accomplish the learning needed to advance to the next grade, the student needs to have additional time and assistance to accomplish that task. The current policy is to move the student to the next grade despite the fact that they have not met the requirements to advance. This is Social Promotion which sets the students up for failure and it needs to stop!
One of the questionnaires I was given, asked, “If elected, what will you do to promote the positive aspects of the Great Falls Public Schools and minimize the negativity often seen and/or heard in public or social media?” I will not be a part of a program that focuses on dishonest ‘happy talk.’ The objective of a school system is to educate.
There are standardized, widely accepted metrics to determine if that goal is being accomplished. By using these objective measures, we are able to asses academic performance. I believe in giving credit where credit is due. When our students or the school systems accomplishments are positive, there should be recognition. Conversely, when there are documented shortcomings, the administration and the trustees need to own the problems and address them head-on!
The constituents (the citizens of the school district) support the school district through taxation. For school year 2021-2022 the GFPS projected revenue was $115, 957,403. Everyone of those dollars came from the taxpayers, which begs the question. Are the taxpayers getting what they are paying for? We need to look at how we were educating our children (curriculum and methods) when we were number 1 in the world because what we are doing now is not working.
There are times when what was done in the past is better than our “new and improved” approach. We need to get back to the basics.