Archive for Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Get the entire picture on our elementary education

July 10, 2002

Like so many people in Baldwin, I was concerned to read Sunday's Lawrence Journal-World story headlined "blacklisted schools." Baldwin Elementary and Marion Springs Elementary were on the list.

After reading the story, however, my immediate thought was "what's wrong with this picture?" Having seen and experienced first hand over the years the quality education provided at both schools, I simply couldn't believe there was a major problem here.

There isn't.

We hit the ground running Monday morning to find out what was really going on with this so-called "list." Come to find out it involves Title I funding for free and reduced lunches. Money provided by the program is earmarked to help students who score below the 40th percentile on reading and math. BES and MSES students in that category did not show improvement.

That's it.

So, everyone that doesn't have kids in that group can come down off the ceiling. For those with kids in that group, of course it's a concern. There's probably enough concern there anyway, but there are programs available to help.

But, as for the district as a whole, the state-wide test scores are above average. Don't take my word for it or school officials. Check out the Kansas State Department of Education Web site at Baldwin's test scores are there along with all other schools.

Also, there is plenty of information on President Bush's "No Child Left Behind Act" that is at the heart of the list. That can be found at the U.S. Department of Education Web site at

I suggest looking for yourself because, as BES principal Tom Mundinger says, there's plenty of "misinformation" out there. It didn't help either that the J-W story had the "blacklist" term used in the headline. There is no "blacklist."

There probably wasn't anyone in Baldwin as stunned to read Sunday's story than Mundinger. He definitely knew there was "something wrong with this picture." He jumped in the middle of it Monday morning, too. He knew BES' test scores were right up there.

"We have nothing to hide," said Mundinger. "I would encourage people to go to the state department Web site. Look at the scores for yourself."

That being said, the long-time BES principal also readily said there is room for improvement. There always is in education. The students in that lower percentile are in fact not improving like they should. Adjustments will be made and programs for those students will be improved.

But he's concerned what the misinformation may lead to. To be on a negative list makes people question the educational system as a whole. That shouldn't happen.

"It does such a disservice to the district as a whole," he said. "Are we perfect? No. Do we deserve to be 'blacklisted?' No."

The story has served as a wake-up call for the district. There will be renewed emphasis put on state-wide testing scores, for example.

In the meantime, it's important that the community supports its teachers and administrators. I made it clear to Mundinger that I remain 100 percent behind everyone involved in education at BES and MSES.

Both my kids received a quality education at BES. I'm happy to say I knew better than to buy into a story questioning the education offered here. There was "something wrong with that picture."

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