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Christina Loh: Grand Forks schools can, should boost academic achievement

Christina Loh

GRAND FORKS — With the School Board election just around the corner, there has been a spotlight on how the Grand Forks School District has been spending taxpayers’ money. But a recent Herald editorial and a letter by Leslie Klevay remind us what the most important question is:

Are our children getting the quality education they deserve?

In my view, our students may be suffering from a lack of academic freedom. I feel that our young people are capable of much more than we ask of them.

If we raise the bar, they will rise to meet our expectations. Give them the freedom to take classes that will challenge them. Not only will this benefit the top third of students tremendously, but also the less academically inclined students will be motivated to fulfill their potential.

How can we give such opportunities to our students? I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that the North Dakota Century Code says that sophomores, juniors and seniors can take dual credit courses, which are academically challenging courses that let students get college credits.

But as of now, the Grand Forks School District does not let sophomores take DC courses. Why?

Apparently, administrators believe sophomores aren’t ready for college-level classes, despite evidence to the contrary. In one case, a freshman scored 24 in the ACT, well within the score range of students who get admitted to UND. But this young person has not been allowed to enroll in DC classes as a sophomore.

In another case, a student was told by her counselor that she was “crazy” for enrolling in four DC and Advanced Placement courses as a junior. What kind of message does that send?

In Minnesota, many students graduate from high school with associate degrees (worth a whopping 60 college credits) that they obtained through AP/DC programs, paid for by the state. As a financial aid advisor for UND, I see these students entering UND and graduating with a bachelor’s degree after only two years.

With the current Minnesota tuition rate of $4,205 per semester, this represents a savings of about $17,000 of tuition money, not to mention room and board.

My husband is from a Third World country, but his school gave him the academic freedom to progress at his own rate, which included skipping five grades in the K-12 system. This kept him challenged and stimulated, and prepared him well for Cambridge University in Britain. He is now a professor at UND.

What are we doing for our own children if we stifle their education and don’t give them the same opportunities as their peers in other countries?

Loh is a candidate for the Grand Forks School Board.