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Dick Palmer: Is doing too much really too little?

In this day of high technology and social challenge, it is hard to believe that less than 50 percent of the Minneapolis School District class of 2000 made it from the ninth grade to graduation. This fact was revealed this past week by a study com...

In this day of high technology and social challenge, it is hard to believe that less than 50 percent of the Minneapolis School District class of 2000 made it from the ninth grade to graduation. This fact was revealed this past week by a study commissioned by the school district.
Here is some of the residue that was filtered out of the study: More than one-third of class members dropped out; only 15 percent of American Indian students graduated; other students of color fared better, but not well. Among white students, only 58 percent got through in four years. (These facts were revealed in a Minneapolis StarTribune story May 29.) The dropout revelation was announced by the Minneapolis Public School Foundation, utilizing the assistance of a consulting firm.
In addition to these facts, 20 percent of the dropouts in 2000 are still trying to graduate. Currently, the Minneapolis School Board is attempting to formulate a plan to overhaul its seven high school programs. Like Duluth and other metro communities throughout the country, the issues surrounding educational opportunities go beyond the simple 3 R's approach of yesteryear. The struggle seems to be triggered by a bonafide effort to break students into smaller classroom sizes and keep some continuity of student groups throughout the high school experience.
The required disbursement of educational dollars complicates this. Duluth is not alone in this dilemma, but it does share a common set of circumstances with Minneapolis and other similar areas. Duluth has a growing ethnic diversity, which is the norm today in many communities, large and small. Duluth is at a major disadvantage in the financing of educational needs because of a declining population reflecting on larger financial responsibility shifted to fewer taxpayers.
In addition, Duluth has a major need for school facility consolidations to keep the expenses for education directed to the students rather than consumed by aging buildings. It is almost a no win situation with few simple solutions, including some additional financial support from the state. Is there a solution?
Today, we spend a lot of money on social rather than academic amenities. Our educational machine seems to be less and less interested in individual student/teacher/ parent involvement, and perhaps our biggest challenge is providing parents with updated information on their children's progress or lack thereof.
Parents should take a leadership role in all this, but too many don't, which simply means educators are required to take an additional step.
Indeed, there is much going on today in public education that is taxing the mind as well as the pocketbook.

Dick Palmer is the former editor and publisher of theBudgeteer News. He may be reached by telephone at 723-1207 or by e-mail at rpalmer@duluth.com .

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