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Fundamentally important knowledge

Click here to see the full Deer Isle-Stonington High School—Low-Performing School Archive.

I have been participating in education as a student and as a teacher (teaching elementary school students through college graduate school students) for nearly all of my life. I was shocked to read in the newspaper (Island Ad-Vantages, March 25, 2010) the language used by Superintendent Webster to express his determination to not fire Principal West. His grammatically questionable and socially inappropriate statement may suggest a leadership attitude that in fact supports the low test scores on the SAT.

The examples used by Principal West to indicate student improvement could easily have explanations other than improvement. For example: a 65-percent drop in suspensions could simply mean that behaviors previously thought unacceptable are now tolerated; having only one ninth grade student fail only one class, as opposed to 10 students failing 40 classes could indicate a lowering of expectations for passing or even the loss of the students who would have failed.

It is my educational experience that students must know fundamental knowledge facts in order to use higher level concepts based on those facts. I have worked as a tutor with a number of DISHS students who were experiencing difficulty in math. They universally did not know the basic addition or multiplication facts. I taught them memorization techniques to help them quickly learn the facts needed to understand and learn the required math skills. For the most part, their progress in math improved—according to their report cards. I suggest as a teaching strategy, we tell the students what we want them to learn, teach them the facts and then the concepts. We then should test to see if they have learned those facts and concepts.

There is basic information that is needed to survive in this society.

The areas of math, reading and basic cultural knowledge are fundamentally important. The SAT is a standardized test that is nationally based. The information and skills tested represent the current knowledge and skills needed for any job in this society.

Attacking the results of the test or giving reasons why it doesn’t apply here cannot be of assistance in improving our students’ future success—not just on tests but rather in life.

Dr. Herman Kidder, BS, MA, MA, PhD Deer Isle

Herman Kidder

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