News Feature

The Island

Offering my opinions

Click here to see the full Deer Isle-Stonington High School—Low-Performing School Archive.

Most of what I have read about the DIS achievement issue has focused entirely on the high school. I think that the cure lies mostly in the grade school.

I am retired from having taught history in a South Carolina open admissions college. Its policy is to admit any applicant with a valid high school diploma and to remediate any shortcomings.

Numerous students fetched up in my classes unable to read beyond a very elementary level, barely sixth grade, if that. Almost none of them could be successfully remediated. The time to learn basic reading skills is in the early elementary grades when the mind is most receptive to that kind of learning. The same goes for basic math facts, although reading is more critical.

I have successfully helped algebra students who were buffaloed by word problems because they could not analyze sentences in the problems.

If a student learns to read with understanding before he discovers sex, he can fall off the track, decide to come back, and rebuild himself if he applies himself to the right books. If he cannot read well, he is probably doomed to failure.

My experience has been that students who are unable to read effectively are unable to keep up as they are passed up the grades, and that they are the ones who become discipline problems.

I am over-simplifying, but it is a fact that, if students exit the eighth grade having learned what they should have, high school will take care of itself.

If I could be the god of education, I would, if necessary, starve the upper grades in order to insure maximum achievement in the first six grades.

If we would identify the high school class of 2023 as the engine to pull the train and ensure its excellence at every step upwards, and maintain its progress behind it, then the graduating class of 2023 would have transformed the entire system along the way.

Gnashing our teeth about high school because it is so visible with its teams and its final graduation rate and college entrance rate is too late.

Do what you can to remediate the problems in high school, but find the ultimate cure in the early elementary grades.

I spend half the year in the house that I own on Little Deer, but as a person from away I am not writing to publicly interfere in Island matters. I am offering you my opinions in the hope that you will pursue or cause others to pursue the ideas that I have suggested.

John Morton

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