Educators say KUSD, KAL doing better jobs at educating students

KINGMAN – Two local educators say their districts are doing better jobs of preparing students for the future than state schools in general.

"We're ahead with all-day kindergarten," said Betsy Parker, assistant superintendent of the Kingman Unified School District.

"We recognize the importance of early childhood education, and that's what the governor is pushing for.

"Our investment in kindergarten through third-grade reading emphasis is going to show up in future years, too.

It will make better seventh-grade readers, better 10th-grade readers and better members of the workforce."

That upbeat note is echoed at Kingman Academy of Learning by district administrator Susan Chan.

"We're doing an excellent job of educating students," Chan said.

"We've given them many learning opportunities, no matter what their learning levels are, and those students have taken the opportunities and soared with them."

Arizona's dropout rate is above the national average and needs further addressing by the state, Parker said.

But federal No Child Left Behind legislation enacted three years ago is helping keep children in school, and Sandy McCoy, director of the Positive Alternatives for Students Success program in the KUSD, has done an excellent job of providing other avenues to students who drop out, Parker said.

"We get a few dropouts in our high school," Chan said.

"But most pursue other avenues of education, whether it's getting their GED or going to another public high school, so, in a sense, they're not dropouts even though they leave our school."

Parker said her district is in compliance with all provisions of No Child Left Behind and was to forward a report about it Tuesday to the Arizona Department of Education.

The KAL curriculum is built around state standards, and attendance is stressed not only on regular instruction days but also on days of Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards and Stanford-9 testing, Chan said.

Chan added that most KAL teachers are highly qualified as stipulated within No Child Left Behind.

A few not yet in that category are working to meet the compliance deadline in 2005.

Both school administrators were asked what has been the most difficult part of the legislation to comply with.

"Being in a rural area and trying to meet the qualification requirements (for teachers)," Parker said.

"I like to use Mount Tipton as an example because it's a K-12 school.

According to the law, if we have someone there teaching one hour of social studies, one hour of Spanish and one hour of English, that person needs almost three undergraduate degrees, which is almost unrealistic.

"I think Congress will make changes and the deadline for all teachers will be extended to 2007."

Chan said the most difficult aspect of the federal legislation has not yet been seen.

By 2006, graduation requirements will include passing the AIMS test, she said.

Many students still need to be educated as to the importance of the test.

Funding is the area of education most frustrating to Parker.

She said she would like to see educators' pay commensurate with people in business and industry.

Special education most concerns Chan.

"We are finding more and more children who qualify for special education, and the requirements of No Child Left Behind are in opposition to the special education law of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)," Chan said.

"IDEA students are taught on the grade level where they perform, so if you have a 10th-grader with a processing problem that can only read at the fourth-grade level, that's where the student is taught in the language areas.

But No Child Left Behind says a child in 10th grade must be assessed on the 10th-grade level."

That leads to frustration for educators, and the child that must be tested, Chan added.

However, there is a rewarding side to education.

"What I like is being able to walk into a kindergarten class, look at the faces of children and realize they can read," Chan said.

"It's so rewarding to see when the light clicks on."

Parker said there are many things rewarding in education to her.

"Probably the most rewarding thing is getting to see daily and weekly what our students can produce," Parker said.