Pueblo, a diamond in the raw – Opinion – LA Junta Tribune – La Junta, CO

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What’s wrong with Pueblo’s schools? Nothing that isn’t wrong with those in Colorado Springs, Denver or the rest of America.

Ours have achieved the same rigorous standards: Our teachers are excellent, programs up to date and we have the most recent textbooks. So with all being equal, what causes some to be in continuous crisis mode while others are pillars of success? Instead of continuing to find fault with the teachers and the quality of education, we should put the blame where it belongs — the students, parents and administrators.

Let’s compare the parents and environments of students in different schools. Consider those rated A and B in middle- to upper-class neighborhoods. Children from these homes get good grades, not because their parents have money, but because they’re successful. They have good paying jobs and pass their work ethic on to their children.

They read to them, talk to them extensively and restrict their television viewing and cell phones. When their children enter school, they monitor their schoolwork, see to it that the children understand it and do their homework. These children pass the tests which supposedly prove the teachers are doing a good job.

Schools in low-income neighborhoods usually receive D and F ratings, because the parents don’t give their children the same educational advantages. Over 50 years of study, the language gap determined that poor children are two years behind on language tests when they enter school.

According to a Rice University study, by age three, poor children hear roughly 30 million less words than their more privileged counterparts. These kids begin school behind the others and never catch up. They fail the tests, which drags the school ratings down.

Many will drop out of high school, then only qualify for menial jobs and have to rely on food stamps and welfare to help raise their families. Pueblo has an overabundance of poor families. According to GreatSchools 2019, of 35 elementary schools in Pueblo, 21 are below average.

Children of all nationalities and cultures are equally capable of being successful, if they are properly prepared and supported. These children aren’t. Some will learn, despite their backgrounds, but the majority never will qualify to take part in the blessings America has to offer.

We must teach these parents, so their children will have an opportunity to succeed.

Granted, many will not, or cannot, cooperate, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore those who want to learn. Poor parents can contribute to their children’s success, just as effectively as other parents, and many will go out of their way to help their children, if they are taught how.

 Decades of research has proven that parental involvement is the key to children’s learning and success, yet administrators are ignoring the obvious solution and determined to force the teachers to do the impossible. Pueblo School District 60’s five-year strategic goals and objectives are nothing but educational jargon that cannot be measured nor results proven.

As always, they stress making the teachers better and throwing more money at what has failed the past 50 years. Just a small portion of that wasted money could make a huge difference in these children’s lives.

Teachers cannot backtrack to their students’ infancy and preschool years and give them what their parents did not. All they can do is build upon the foundations the parents laid.

If there are none, then all they can do is the best they can with the unprepared children they are given. “The capacity of a child’s brain expands more between birth and age three than at any other time.” according to Rima Shore, Rethinking the Brain. New York, 1997.

Even preschool and Head Start aren’t as effective if the child’s brain development was neglected the first three years. Community schools are successful in many other districts and would be an ideal starting place for Pueblo’s parent education classes.

Why did our officials reject them? There are so many things parents can be taught easily that would help their children considerably. For example, just while reading together for 20 minutes a day, they can teach their child skills that would lead to reading fluency by thirrd grade.

Pueblo is a diamond in the raw. We have so many more assets than other cities: Lake Pueblo Reservoir, the Arkansas River, the Colorado State Fair, Royal Gorge, fantastic weather, two colleges, cultural assets and beautiful people. What more could a city want? Good schools! Until we have them, Pueblo’s economy never will grow.

Kathleen Burns is a retired Pueblo County School District 70 elementary school teacher and the author of “Top Students/Top Parents, 2019.”

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