On behalf of John McCain, and myself, believe everything you read in print, especially if it is in the Des Moines Register. Meanwhile, what you haven't read about in the paper Iowa depends on is the severe and documented academic crisis of our state's largest school district.
The Iowa Department of Education just released graduation data for all Iowa's school districts. Using the formula the Des Moines School District has defended so aggressively the state's report documented that the Des Moines' graduation rate declined by ten points this past year and is the state's second worse, leading only the Council Bluffs School District. The two districts combined to produce five of Iowa's eight Dropout Factory High Schools in the recent Johns Hopkins National Study.
On Tuesday, February 19, 2008, Dr. Sebring's achievement report to the School Board documented declines in eight of nine academic areas for 4th, 8th and 11th grade proficiency on the ITBS and ITED and that less than 60% of our 11th graders tested proficient in reading, math or science. In a recent analysis Des Moines ranked 331 out of 341 districts in Iowa in 4th and 8th grade reading and math proficiency.
We as a District promote failing students from kindergarten through the eighth grade. Literally a student can get straight Fs can 150 days of school and get promoted through our District until he enters high school. Here's an email I received from a teacher recently:
"Our district has a serious issue with promoting students that have no business being in the next grade. I teach the same students for three years. I am one of the only middle school teachers in the district that has this perspective. I have had students who have failed for three years that still are passed to high school? How and why is this acceptable? They then get to high school, fail, and what? 'I am not being passed on.' They then fall behind and eventually will drop out. We are not teaching students to be accountable for their actions in middle school. This is the crucial make or break time. I can about predict my students that will successfully complete high school and the ones that will unfortunately drop out. Why can we not end social promotion? How is this benefiting our students? I want someone to answer this question for me as a teacher and as a parent."
Violence, discipline problems, bullying are rampant in our district. We represent just over six percent of the state's enrolled student population yet nearly 20% of the students suspended or expelled in this state are enrolled in the Des Moines School District. Bullying is also a huge problem.
Since the arrival of our new superintendent the board tripled the number of superintendents, created three executive director positions, have tons of administrative staff yet not a single one of our three dozen elementary schools and only one of our middle schools has a full-time librarian. Why hasn't the register addressed the top heavy nature of our district and the role it plays in our current academic crisis?
As a student of history I understand that at times the 4th estate has not been the independent voice informing and educating the public but the "champion" of the status quo. Although our local media in general has failed to cover a number of major Des Moines School District storylines, The Register has singularly failed this community by going the extra step of shielding this community from fundamental truths regarding our District.
I can understand the political motives of a Board that has been silent on key academic concerns crippling this District for years. The voters will decide if this has been acceptable.
In recent years Des Moines School Board incumbents have found the public isn't happy with the board's failures. Name the legislators representing districts covering Des Moines defeated in re-election bids, the county supervisors or the city council members? I can but most can't because such defeats are so rare.
Now name the incumbents of the past few years running for re-election on the Des Moines School Board that haven't been defeated, especially sitting board presidents? On the other hand the voters don't get to weigh in on The Register's manipulation of the flow of information regarding the Des Moines School District. I did a search of The Register's archives. In the last six months I've been in the paper about 50 times, including a Duffy spoof this past Friday. Yet the litany of concerns expressed in this instant commentary, and many other pressing concerns, have rarely warranted Des Moines Register ink or investigation.
Why aren't these issues important to The Register? That's the question those of you that care about this district, and the education of our children, now need to start asking The Register.