How can we best help our students?

After attending the school board meeting introducing the formation of an equity committee, I have some concerns.

First, when test results are reported in the newspaper, Eau Claire schools do better than most. I checked the data and discovered an interesting trend. Wisconsin and Eau Claire rank high in achievement scores and proficiency levels when compared to other states. In fact, it ranks fourth in math proficiency and achievement, but the gap between high and low achievers seems to be the problem.

Our high achievers raise our scores such that there is a larger gap between the highs and the lows. The higher the scores on the top end, the greater the gap. Those states that have lower gaps usually have lower achievement scores and lower proficiency levels.

Eau Claire schools plan to discontinue diverting students to classes based on ability. Students will be integrated into classes of mixed ability – a losing proposition for both low and high achievers. What happens to the gifted and talented programs? How do AP courses fit this model? What about students who travel to the university to get advanced courses? These opportunities would not be available if students are integrated, working in equitable, “clustered,” small groups within their class.

Even though high achievers would lose opportunities in this “equitable” system, the lower achievers will lose more. They already struggle, and nothing is more demeaning and discouraging to a low achiever than to be faced with high achievers every day. That shame causes many students to give up or drop out.

Equity attempts to guarantee equality of outcome, but that’s impossible. We’re all different. We can strive for equal opportunity. Do we need a committee, professional training and meetings? Wouldn’t our time and resources be better spent helping the students?

Sheila Wilkinson

Eau Claire