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With the partisan rhetoric of the schoolboard elections behind us, it's time to ask, "will changes proposed by either side actually improve our schools?" While the new, anti-reform board will surely work to erase missteps from the past years, I challenge them to become reformers themselves. There are deeper issues than school choice, teacher turnover and merit pay. This isn't time for relativism; simply making the schools "better" than they were under the previous board won't cut it. We need to strive for excellence in the absolute sense.
One example that comes to mind is Thomas McLaren School in Colorado Springs. Despite being founded in 2009 as a charter with less per-student revenue and more minority and economically disadvantaged students than any DougCo high school, it has shown that fostering a true love of learning translates into achievement. Students are instructed to "know truth, create beauty, and practice goodness."
Their teachers are committed to a mission more than to a paycheck (starting teachers are paid about 30 percent less than starting DougCo teachers). While I think top teachers should be paid $80,000-plus, having teachers passionate enough to teach for beans is more of a justification for high pay than simply logging 20 years of "experience."
As long as we keep an isolated view of our own school system's potential, our schools - and students - will not truly be able to succeed. We have to push them well-beyond today's low bar. Sometimes the best system is entirely different than the current one.
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