Why close Teach when it serves its students so well?

Instead of abandoning school, district should support its goals

letters@thetribunenews.comFebruary 10, 2013 

By any measure, Teach Elementary is consistently among the top performing schools in the San Luis Coastal District. Test scores are high. Students are motivated. Awards are many. So why close it?

True, Teach is experiencing growing pains. It shares a campus with Bishop’s Peak Elementary, a traditional, K-6 school.

The capacity of the campus is 525; combined enrollment of the two schools is 522 and growing.

Neighbors are concerned about traffic congestion, and justifiably so.

Those problems, though, are surmountable.

Boundary lines for Bishop’s Peak could be tweaked to take pressure of f the campus. Schedules could be staggered to reduce congestion. Or Teach could be moved to a different campus altogether. Monarch Grove, for example, has empty classrooms.

Logistics, though, aren’t the only concern. The San Luis Coastal Unified School District’s board of trustees has been doing a good deal of soul searching over whether there’s a need for a separate school with an accelerated program for high-achieving students.

Teach has been described as “elitist,” and board President Walt Millar told a Tribune reporter that the school “is really contrary to the notion of equal access for all kids.”

There have been questions, too, about whether the school truly meets the definition of a magnet program, as there are no entrance requirements. When demand for seats exceeds supply, a lottery is used to determine who gets in — not test scores or teacher recommendations.

There also have been complaints that having two schools on one campus doesn’t work — that students at Bishop’s Peak feel they aren’t on par with their peers at Teach.

We agree that the dual school situation isn’t ideal and can lead to bruised feelings, especially when friends who had been together at Bishop’s Peak in their primary years wind up separated.

That said, we don’t believe for a minute that students are shortchanged if they don’t go to Teach.

Excellent teaching and learning is happening throughout the district. Bishop’s Peak, for example, has its own string of awards, and in some instances, students have scored higher than their Teach counterparts on standardized tests.

Nor do we believe that a separate school with an accelerated program is the only way — or even the best way — to serve gifted students.

Nonetheless, we support giving families as many educational options as possible, be it Teach, the Pacheco dual-immersion language program or traditional neighborhood schools.

At a minimum, we urge the school board to continue the Teach program at Bishop’s Peak until the current students graduate.

That would give the district more time to examine the long-term future of the program: whether it makes sense to keep it at Bishop’s Peak, move it to another campus or perhaps locate Teach-like programs on multiple campuses.

The board also could consider whether to set benchmarks for entrance, as most magnet schools do.

Consider: As a nation, we regularly hear of this or that study showing how poorly American students perform compared to their counterparts in other nations — leading to more calls to “reform” education or to strengthen programs, especially in math and science.

Here’s a program that’s already successful.

So again, why close it?

Rather than abandon it, we strongly urge the school board to find a way to continue to make the Teach model work.

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