Letter: Can Asheville City Schools try another approach?

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Does what happens in the classroom have anything to do with education?

I attended the public forum presented by the Asheville City Schools on Aug. 29. I have also tried to keep up with the discussion of the issues, as reported by the Xpress, in previous ACS forums this year.

The school system is searching for a new superintendent in the face of the reality that about 80 percent of white elementary students test proficiently in reading, math and science, while only 30 percent of black students do so.

The specific topic for citizen input at the Aug. 29 forum was a list of the desired qualifications for a new school superintendent for Asheville. But the list, which included “racial equity training,” “cultural awareness training” and experience with “poverty,” made no mention of the classroom or the curriculum. And this emphasis on race and society was true for previous forums.

There seems to be a consensus among education professionals that what goes on outside the classroom — family, race, history, society, politics — determines educational proficiency and that schooling should be about that. And such a view is not peculiar to Asheville public schools. Per recent articles in The Charlotte Observer, the same consensus prevails in Charlotte.

However, the Asheville school system has already tried that approach. With great fanfare and with much hope in 2017, Asheville public schools imported a program by two University of Wisconsin professors called Integrative Comprehensive Strategies for Equity. According to the reporting of the Xpress in May of this year, “after two years and many meetings, little progress appears to have been made.” [avl.mx/pru5]

Can we try another approach? Are there educators who think that kids can learn despite their backgrounds and the effects of outside-the-school influences? If so, let’s hire them, starting at the superintendent level.

Reading is obviously and by far the most important subject in the elementary curriculum. It is the basis for all the other subjects and for advancement to the next grades. Kids who are deficient in reading need extra instruction, not extra excuse-making and blaming of society. “I am a good reader” is the best overcoming of social disadvantage that I can think of.

What about a “qualified” new superintendent who would have it as a goal to completely revise the elementary school (3-8) curriculum to concentrate on reading? And who would make radical changes to achieve that goal, including de-emphasizing all other subjects (except for mathematics) — social studies, science, art, music, sports — in favor of this most important and necessary subject. Double or triple the time spent on reading and associated language skills. Bring in extra tutors. Here’s a suggestion: WNC is home to hundreds (thousands?) of educated retired people. What about them volunteering to come in for an hour or two every day or twice a week to help kids one-on-one or one-on-two?

This is Asheville. Let’s challenge the education establishment, including professors of education.

— Tom Ascik


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7 thoughts on “Letter: Can Asheville City Schools try another approach?

  1. Lou

    Studies show that racial profiling begins in PRESCHOOL. Children of color are expected to do worse in school and that continues until they graduate, if they do graduate.
    I like Tom’s idea of retired professionals volunteering their time to tutor…some kids have no positive adult role models in their lives at all.

  2. Rick

    An important factor in having young people succeed in school, and then later in life, is having them to actually WANT to learn, to understand, and to thereby achieve improvement in areas that actually matter. They need to understand early that strong personal initiative is required to receive positive results…… especially when the going gets rough. Hard work will bring worthwhile achievements and half-efforts won’t get it done. It’s also important for kids to avoid becoming caught up in daily worthless pursuits that emphasize foolish fad-like agility with unusual body language, facial expressions, strange vocalizations, etc. Living and acting like a sensible person and not like some human aberration intent on receiving attention is important as well. As has been said, having a proper adult role model is vastly significant.

  3. Mike R.

    There’s nothing wrong with the schools, teachers, curriculum.
    It starts and ends with the parents and how they raise the child.

  4. WNC Native

    Teachers have a responsibility to teach in a professional manner to all students.

    Parents have a responsibility to have their child at school each day prepared to learn, complete their assignments and respect those around
    them both young and old.

    I am a teacher and parent of 5.

  5. MG Massey

    In this county,the former Deputy Superintendent, told me;
    “Your son cannot be special ed and gifted.

    Even though Dr Olson Huff diagnosed him.
    No one listened nor helped.
    My son was so abused by the school that it left him paralyzed with fear.
    Sexually assaulted at elementary…….he was also never given the help Dr Huff said he needed.He was bullied and treated horribly.
    Stereotypes do harm..but let’s get real..
    Most of the insular insensitive in the school system have been abusing children in one way or another for decades.
    In another county they told my daughter;
    “She’s pretty she doesn’t need academics”
    The problems in our schools are not the children.

  6. Enlightened Enigma

    There is not one reason for taxpayers to be funding two separate school systems in Buncombe Co. The fact that the controllers refuse to consolidate demonstrates their total disregard for equality and inclusion, which they love to scream about…these people are self serving elitists who should be ashamed of themselves. ACS is full of elitist exclusion.

  7. indy499

    We have been unsuccessful at elevating our performance and appear to be unwilling to take the steps to do so. Time to find some new approaches (uber liberal U of Wisc is a great source)to push that 80% down to the 30%so equity will be achieved.

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