Wednesday, September 13, 2000

Educator explains Bush views

Ariz. superintendent visits local school

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

        MIDDLETOWN — There would be no national tests to gauge student performance if Gov. George W. Bush is elected president, but there would be accountability.

        So says Lisa Keegan, Arizona's superintendent of public instruction, who was in Middletown on Tuesday on behalf of the Bush campaign.

        Just after the Gore campaign was ending its stop at Middletown High School, Ms. Keegan was beginning a discussion with teachers, parents and administrators at Taft Elementary School, which adopted the national Accelerated School Reform model two years ago.

        “We have to agree as a nation we are going to improve,” Ms. Keegan said during her hourlong visit. “Bush says put federal programs into five categories, and tell us how you're doing. Our local folks need to do what they need to do (to improve instruction).”

        That doesn't mean stop testing, Ms. Keegan said. There must be annual testing done so educators can gauge progress at the local, state and national levels. Testing also provides a baseline from which to document improvement, she said. But she said Mr. Bush is not an advocate of mandatory national standards.

        “All we can ask of a school is to take our children where they are and move them,” said Ms. Keegan.

        By adopting the Accelerated School model, Taft Principal Marla Marsh said the community and staff had to put aside the “at risk” label put on so many schools and children in low-income attendance areas, like her school.

        “Kids are not at risk,” Ms. Marsh said. “They come from at-risk situations. ... Again, it's believing in your children.”

        Ms. Keegan praised the staff, parents and administrators at Taft for their work.

        “I struggle with how the rest of us can get out of the way and let teachers do their job,” Ms. Keegan said of her office. “The creativity of teachers is what's saving our kids.”

        Kindergarten teacher Lynese Wagner said the teachers agreed to focus more carefully on helping students learn fewer concepts but teach them better by going into more detail.

        “We threw out a lot of the fluff that made us feel good,” Ms. Wagner said. “We found other ways to make learning fun.”

        Parent Tony Everhart, a Middletown High graduate, said he was pleased with the education his second-grade son was getting.

        “I love the vision they have, the collaboration,” Mr. Everhart said. “My son comes home and wants to do homework. I like that he showed that much enthusiasm (for math).”


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