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VIEWPOINT: GF schools continue to lead the way

By Tim Lamb GRAND FORKS -- This is in response to the Herald's editorial, "N.D. schools must get back on track" (Page A4, June 27), and its progeny of responses, including the latest, "GF schools may not be so great after all" (Page D3, June 6). ...

By Tim Lamb

GRAND FORKS -- This is in response to the Herald's editorial, "N.D. schools must get back on track" (Page A4, June 27), and its progeny of responses, including the latest, "GF schools may not be so great after all" (Page D3, June 6).

Let's set the record straight. I think there is little doubt that the quality of our K-12 education system in Grand Forks is of the highest caliber.

That fact is supported by evidence of top-ranked teachers (many having a master's degree or better), superb buildings and students who excel in SAT and ACT scores, ranking in the top 10 percent on a state-by-state comparison.

Our students also achieve an average of more than 25 credits for high school graduation. Daily attendance for all grades exceeds 95 percent, and graduation rates are more than 90 percent.


When you talk with school board members in other states, they are simply astounded by these stats. For example, in most major cities across America, graduation rates are at about 70 percent, and daily attendance is less than 70 percent.

As a matter of fact, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, eighth-graders in our state compared well to the national average in math, science and reading, exceeding the average test scores by 10 points.

The Herald's editorial compared North Dakota to Massachusetts and arrived at a conclusion that we can do better because they showed improvement in their "adequate yearly progress" scores, which is a benchmarker under the No Child Left Behind Act. That is a complete fallacy.

First of all, there are many flaws with standardized testing under No Child. That act itself is under a great deal of scrutiny by Congress and probably will either be gutted or not reauthorized, beginning with the testing program.

A number of states have already received permission by the Department of Education to deviate from the No Child standards and testing procedures.

Second, to compare North Dakota to Massachusetts just does not hold water. One is a rural state with unique K-12 education issues associated with the challenges of small rural school districts, and the other is mostly urban with other issues affecting the quality of education.

In addition, funding of K-12 education between the two states is polar opposite. That is, here the local and state government share is about equal. But there, the state's share is double or twice that of the local share. The average teacher's salary here is $38,750; there, it's $58,000. These are big differences that bear upon the quality of public education.

Third, to conclude that our K-12 education system in Grand Forks is comparable to statewide stats defies logic. Our state has its statewide statistics, but Grand Forks has its own set of stats that are much better. We are a piece of the pie, but the analogy ends there.


How can the Herald jump to the conclusion that the Grand Forks Public Schools are, as the headline over a letter put it, "not so great after all" by using statewide statistics and a No Child AYP standard that is, at best, flawed? That's like arguing that all birds fly, penguins are birds and therefore, penguins fly.

In the final analysis, Grand Forks has an excellent K-12 school system -- one we can all be very proud of. We cannot rest on our laurels, however. Under a new superintendent Larry Nybladh, we will go to new levels of high achievement.

Also, once the federal government gets its act together, we need to set a goal for a quality K-12 education across the country that is second to none.

Perhaps Grand Forks will serve as a model for this national effort, as we already are in the state.

Lamb is a member of the Grand Forks School Board.

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