Wednesday, March 19, 2003
By CHRISTY J. PAUL
Special to the News
On Friday of this past week, I traveled to Salem with a mission: to help make Oregon public schools even better. Meeting with 40 other students as a member of the Youth Advisory Team to the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Susan Castillo, we discussed issues ranging from funding to the arts to CIM testing, the list seemed endless.
However, within a few minutes of my arrival at the capital, I questioned my presence. The students around me had definite worries on their minds: their schools were not heated, their advanced placement classes were being cut, and Superintendent Castillo herself believed that some students still felt unsafe in the classroom.
I could attest to none of these complaints. At Hood River Valley High School we have magnificent facilities, classes for all abilities, and never a question of student safety. Our athletic and arts programs are stable, test scores improve each year, and the students do not feel the 25 percent cut in funding, handed to the Department of Education during the last legislative session.
Returning to Hood River Friday night, I was both astounded and offended to read a past article by Mr. Michael F. Fifer titled “How can the state call our schools excellent?” Fifer states that in their final year of high school, “Americans have fallen further behind their international community,” that “America spends more per student than any other country,” and that students emerging from Hood River County schools are neither prepared for college nor the working world.
I ask Mr. Fifer to look at the facts. Oregon requires 11 years of compulsory education compared to the nine or 10 required by nearly all European nations.
It is expected that the foreign students would perform better, on average, than Oregon students in this eleventh year, for only the European students who have decided to continue their education, would be evaluated at this point.
From a financial standpoint, Canada, Italy, and the United Kingdom spend more per student (in respect to per capita Gross Domestic Product) than the United States. Even if the U.S. did exceed the education expenditures of these countries, it is to be praised, not attacked. The amount of money committed to education is a reflection of a country’s dedication to the future generation.
But statistics do not explain the whole story. Step inside any of the Hood River County schools and you will see why the state calls them excellent: the amazing students, inspiring teachers, and supportive administration. When students graduate from HRVHS, they are more than ready, and adequately prepared, to lead a successful life.
Mr. Fifer claims that two Hood River Valley High graduates had to attend community college classes before moving on to a university and that others “can’t run a yard sale cash box.” It was not acknowledged that HRVHS graduates have also excelled at Stanford, Reed College, Lewis and Clark College, Williams College, Boston College, and Princeton to name just a few. Fifer’s examples are simply evidence of the amazing characteristic of human beings: we are all different, with varying strengths, weaknesses, and levels of determination; both our economic and social systems are dependent upon this vital truth.
Perhaps Hood River County schools are an oasis among the Oregon school system, or more likely, a reflection of a wonderful community. Either way, I ask critics to not stand outside the doors of our schools and derail the happenings inside.
Step in, look around, and behold the magic at work.
Christy J. Paul is a senior at HRVHS.