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Editoirial - The school task force

April 08, 1998

Last September the Washington County schools got the results of something called a "curriculum audit" that showed that in many areas, the system had taken good first steps, but hadn't followed through. Now the school board is asking more than 100 people to spend their spring and summer putting together an action plan to correct those problems.

Involving the public is a good thing; the system can't prosper without citizen support. The trick will be to avoid what's happened in the past on a variety of local issues, when citizen input was solicited, then disregarded at decision-making time.

The audit was designed to look at curriculum - those things that the system has decided students need to learn - and how student progress is measured. The audit found that after the "essential curriculum" was written several years ago, educators didn't take the next step to design mechanisms to measure how well the system was doing in getting across the material. Nor was the system providing teachers with help they needed to modify their teaching methods to get new material across successfully.

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And that wasn't all. The audit also found problems with technology, with short- and long-range planning and even with how the system handles the needs of minority students.

How can all of this be fixed? The school system is setting up a task force, co-chaired by Mike Callas of Callas Contractors and Theresa Flak, assistant superintendent for instruction. Last September, Flak said that what the system must do is what General Motors did when it redesigned its plant for Saturn cars-rethink every process to get a higher degree of customer satisfaction with the product.

Flak said then that the system's challenge was to "work smarter, not harder," so that a lot of progress could be made without spending a great deal of additional money, except in the area of teachers' salaries. The solution to every problem is not more money, as Commissioner Ron Bowers notes, but we'd be surprised if many task force's 10 committees came back and say the answer was spending less. At that point, citizens must decide whether the recommended investments are worth the money.

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