1. Archive

Schools must guard against mediocrity

Published Sep. 13, 2005

Editor: Re: administrative restructuring of superintendent's staff:

I am a retired U.S. Army Medical Corps colonel. I also was in private medical practice as an ear-nose-throat surgeon. I spent 13 years in K-through-12, four years of college, four years of medical school, five years post-graduate medical education, two War College-level courses and countless other courses in military and medical continuing education, as well as leadership and management courses. I have been a substitute teacher in Citrus County public schools and an adjunct professor at Central Florida Community College. I think I know a little about education.

I speak today as a layman, an unpaid community representative on the Citrus County School System Committee on Curriculum Alignment. I am pleased to be a member of this committee because I feel it is vitally important for the success of our education program. I would recommend that more community representatives, especially concerned parents, participate as members of the Curriculum Alignment Committee. We need you!

You may have see the recent reports that out of 21 industrialized nations, American students placed 16th in general science knowledge, 19th in general math and dead last in physics. Luckily, Asian nations were not included in this study, or the United States might have fallen to 39th or 40th place.

This should be a wake-up call. Some responded by saying we are a "nation in crisis." The president of the National Education Association said we are "a nation in denial" when it comes to academic achievement. I saw a newspaper column in which the writer said this was no big deal because we still lead the world in technological advances. He missed the point. Think how much more advanced we would be if more of our students were among the top two or three, instead of 16th through 21st out of 21.

When I taught a special math course to student nurses, the most difficult concept for them was adjusting to the metric system, the worldwide measurement system of medicine, science (and everything else). When I was stationed in Europe, it was obvious to me that the average European 6-year-old understood metrics. The fact that the United States uses an 18th-century system of measurement should be a national embarrassment.

But that is only one of the many problems facing our students. The Curriculum Alignment Committee is charged with improving the entire K-12 curriculum. That is not an easy task.

It is to the great benefit of the Citrus County School District that we are blessed with people who know the importance of proper curriculum and good teaching, people who are instituting positive changes to improve our schools. I am talking about professional educators such as Bobbie Dilocker, Kelly Tyler, Effie Alexander and Administrator of the Year Mark Brunner. Without their guidance, who will keep this effort going?

I hope the School Board will think about this before making major changes affecting the future of our students, for the students are our future.

James W. Ralph, M.D.