Letters to the Editor

False figure

February 16, 2011


To the editor:

Saturday morning I attended the “Eggs and Issues” breakfast sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. House Majority Leader Arlen Siegfreid was one of several lawmakers present. In response to a question, Mr. Siegfreid stated that “only 36 percent” of students in fourth grade across Kansas “read at grade level.” He went on to say that scores had been in decline since “sometime in the ’70s.” “Something must be done,” he said.

Yes, Rep. Siegfreid, something must be done, and a good place to start would be having our elected officials speak the truth rather than be a source of misinformation. According to the Kansas Department of Education, “Results from the 2010 Kansas statewide assessments show a 10-year growth trend in reading and mathematics statewide. Students performing in the top three performance levels on the reading assessment increased to 86.3 percent in 2010, up from 85.7 percent in 2009.” State data indicates that 86.8 percent of fourth-graders met or exceeded the Kansas reading standards last year.

Rep. Siegfreid is off by 50.2 percent. It is not true that only 36 percent of Kansas fourth-graders read at grade level. The facts are that 86.8 percent of fourth-graders read at grade level. I find it outrageous and offensive for an elected official to falsely portray our Kansas public schools as failing. Perhaps he fears voucher proposals have little meaning if the alternative to private schooling in an excellent public education.


Paul R Getto 7 years, 3 months ago

Ah, data! Yes, test scores have steadily improved due in part to efforts of brave and dedicated teachers, principals, superintendents and school boards. The school finance debate as it is presently constructed is more ideology than information. Schools should accept this and continue to tell their stories. Most people who have children in a public school are reasonably happy with their child's experiences. Those who choose to attack the system have their own motivations and we should honor their efforts while we continue to use the very data required by the legislature to show school are, indeed, getting better.

Jonathan Becker 7 years, 3 months ago

Mr. Bode, how dare you attack Mr. Siegfried with the facts! His small, little mind is just not capable of comprehending your messages - that his arithmetic demonstrates he is a proud graduate of the Jethro Bodine Skule of Sumz and that vouchers for private schools as a policy are not the magic bullet answer for continuing improvements to public education. I would write "shame on you" to conclude, but Mr. Siegfried would then think I agree with him.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 3 months ago

Vouchers for private schools will not reduce the cost of education but private schools will be pleased to get OUR tax dollars.

Can private schools guarantee a better education? Doubt that.

If private schools are soooooo much better why then are so many children still in public schools?

Most parents understand where to find private schools. We all understand private schools are not required to accept ALL students.... what then?

Privatization could mean tax dollars go to:

  • corp jets

  • Expensive misinformation campaigns supported by the Chamber of Commerce and some elected officials

  • high corporate salaries

  • advertising

*over charges

*Shareholders CERTAINLY increases the cost. Who would want tax dollars going to shareholders?

  • Tax dollars becoming special interest campaign dollars. Who would want education dollars being spent on political campaigns?

  • Golden parachutes

  • Politicians as shareholders( conflict of interest or what!)

Private industry does not translate into fewer tax dollars spent or a better education.

Brock Masters 7 years, 3 months ago

If private schools are soooooo much better why then are so many children still in public schools?

You really have to ask this question?

Simple answer is cost - how many families can afford to send their child to a private school? Also, location. Private schools do not serve all areas and do not have the capacity to educate all students. And, some parents just prefer the public school system.

You really couldn't figure this out? WOW.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 3 months ago

I just don't see a private school in Lawrence being able to buy their own airplane.

jhawkinsf 7 years, 3 months ago

Can private schools guarantee a better education. Of course not. But on the whole they do provide just that. Not every child will benefit but most will. That should be reason enough for parents with the financial means to choose private school. I do not believe in school vouchers. And I believe public school funding should be increased. And if I had the money, I would send my child to a private school in a heartbeat.

notanota 7 years, 3 months ago

Actually, on the whole they do no better than public schools when you compare student demographics.

tomatogrower 7 years, 3 months ago

That's because they don't have to teach just anyone. They can pick and choose their students. If a kid is flunking in private school they just tell him/her to leave.

devobrun 7 years, 3 months ago

I teach at a private school, tomato. It is true that private schools can deny admittance to a student. The choice to deny admission, or send a kid away is excruciating. It is never taken lightly and the kid is always sent on his way with resources from our school to his next place.
It is a real bummer for the kid and his family. However, if a school wants to achieve excellent performance, it must be done. That is, if a school wants to teach average to above-average kids to high standards, decisions must be made.

Why? Because under-performing kids take a lot of time and effort. Sometimes, as a teacher you must decide that a student is at his limit of cognitive abstraction. And it isn't good enough to pass. Do you pass him anyway to get him out of school? Do you lower standards? Not at some schools. Some schools demand more. They serve excellent and average to above average students. The kids who don't make it are asked to leave.

If a school wants to achieve excellence in teaching, standards must be upheld. If a student can't hack it, goodbye. Sounds rough, doesn't it? Sounds like problems are shipped to somebody else and the high-fallutin' school is just discriminating. Yes, they are. On the basis of academic achievement. To the benefit of those students who can hack it.

Not every school should be set up for all students. Some students should be served by standards that are high. Otherwise everybody is raised, or lowered, to the same standard. Everybody is average............no thanks.

I teach at a school that has academic standards and has screened out some students. Fired them. It hurts. But when I see students earn achievement awards and I see kids become seriously productive members of society, I know that There is a place for this school.

Finally, where do the struggling students go? Manufacturing is dead. Vo-Tech schools are not valued. And our economy is what?.......What? Where do we send sweet, diligent, dummies? OK, I guess there is a place for some kids:


notanota 7 years, 3 months ago

Don't flatter yourself that your statistically above average students perform statistically above average because of you. Chances are that they do just as well as kids from the same socioeconomic background who attend public schools. This country's achievement gap isn't with our best students.

Show me how you do better with students statistically less likely to succeed. You yourself basically said that under-performing students actually require effort. Anyone can assign essays on Chaucer to advanced and motivated students and then pat themselves on the back that their students did great. Big whoop.

Tell me how you got that kid from a struggling single parent household to graduate from high school and get a "not valued" vocational training that enabled him/her to break the cycle of poverty. Tell me how you got the kid who thought he was just "math stupid" to actually understand algebra and then go on to become a math teacher in order to help other struggling kids. That community college you linked to probably has a story about a kid like that.

I'm not advocating that the choice of private schools be taken away. I'm all for a variety of systems for those who choose to use them, but don't make the system worse with vouchers. Everyone is entitled to a free and appropriate public education, including the folks you so condescendingly refer to as "sweet, diligent, dummies." Nice.

notanota 7 years, 3 months ago

That's one reason they look better on paper, yes.

think_about_it 7 years, 3 months ago

So what did he say when you challenged his figures? Surely a teacher of your stature heard him correctly and directly questioned his blatantly false statement and didn't just decide to whine to a local paper not even in his district.

MusicMama 7 years, 3 months ago

Unfortunately, the format of the meeting was that all questions had to be submitted in writing at the beginning of the forum/meeting. Once a question had been asked, any of the speakers were allowed to answer the question or they were allowed to remain silent. No one speaker was required to answer any question. Since the false number was presented in the last few minutes of the meeting, no one in the room had much time to challenge it nor were they able to submit a second or follow-up question.

conservative 7 years, 3 months ago

My guess would be that he simply misread the 8 as a 3 when reading his speech. Not really sure that touting that almost 14 percent of Kansas students are failing to meet basic criteria is doing much to say that public education is doing an adequate job.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

Are you saying that we should expect all students to be above average?

notajayhawk 7 years, 3 months ago

Apparently boohoohoozo is one of those reading-challenged products of the public school system. He said "meet basic criteria", boohoohoozo. How did you manage to turn that into "above average?

Scott Drummond 7 years, 3 months ago

Well, are all expected to exceed minimal standards? Not sure that is realistic.

jafs 7 years, 3 months ago

According to the article, 13.2 percent of fourth graders are not reading at grade level.

I'd say that's a problem.

Unless there are specific reasons, like developmental disabilities, I think we should make sure that all children are performing at least at grade level if we want to educate them well.

The percentage is more than 1 out of 10 students - why would you accept their lack of performance?

notanota 7 years, 3 months ago

About 10-15% of the population has dyslexia.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 3 months ago

And 20% or so think george w. bush was a great President.

Unknown whether this 20% includes the same 15% with dyslexia or 5% that are brain damaged.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 3 months ago

Almost 14%?

In my reality 100-86.8 = 13.2.

Just saying.

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 3 months ago

No hon, that's "budget tightening" not "bust tightening".

jafs 7 years, 3 months ago

86.8 - 36 = 50.8

I assume Mr. Bode isn't a math teacher.

Bob Forer 7 years, 3 months ago

Yes, but his margin of error is about one tenth of one per cent. Close enough for me.

jafs 7 years, 3 months ago

I'd expect better from a teacher.

It's not a hard math problem at all - simple subtraction.

Bob Forer 7 years, 3 months ago

Why are you making such a big tsimiss over an inconsequential math error. It doesn't change the content of the letter, which is spot on.

jafs 7 years, 3 months ago

I agree that the mistake doesn't negate the point of the letter.

However, since it's a letter about standards in education, I think it's fair to point out that the teacher made an elementary mistake in arithmetic.

weeslicket 7 years, 3 months ago

jafs: "However, since it's a letter about standards in education, I think it's fair to point out that the teacher made an elementary mistake in arithmetic."

then since this is about performance standards, i'm sure you wouldn't mind me pointing out that you made an elementary mistake in reading.

here's a test-type question for you: -- according to the passage, the lte writer identifies himself as a: a) 3rd grade teacher b) 4th grade teacher c) math teacher d) 4th grade math teacher e) poster on the ljworld site

jafs 7 years, 3 months ago

The answer is b.

And so what? You don't think that a 4th grade teacher should be able to do elementary arithmetic?


weeslicket 7 years, 3 months ago

no, that is not my point. my point is that you must also apply these same standards to yourself.

i don't know whether mr. bode made a mathematical error, or whether it was a typo (his or ljworld's). i do know that you made an unintentional error. that's my point. we all make mistakes.

if i could make a larger, second point, it would be, that House Majority Leader Arlen Siegfreid is either: a) a liar b) ignorant c) willfully ignorant d) terribly confused e) a combination of the above f) none of the above

jafs 7 years, 3 months ago

I made no error, unintentional or otherwise.

My comment about his being a math teacher was sarcastic.

I agree with your points about Siegfried.

And, if I were a teacher writing a letter to the editor about educational standards, I think I'd take the time to make sure my math was correct.

If the paper is in error, the whole discussion is moot.

But, I find it astonishing that many people are unwilling to hold teachers to some basic standards.

spiderd 7 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Bob_Keeshan 7 years, 3 months ago

I'm guessing Mr. Bode has a numeric keypad he uses for numbers.

Using 2 for 8, or vice versa, is a common error on a numeric keypad.

jafs 7 years, 3 months ago

That's really even worse.

The implications are that he can't do elementary arithmetic in his head, and/or can't use a calculator correctly, and didn't notice the error when he looked at the letter before sending it in.

kugrad 7 years, 3 months ago

Just so you know, the 4th grade Kansas Reading Test doesn't measure how fluently you read, how many words per minute, decoding skills or phonological knowledge. It tests things like use of text features, text structures, the meaning of prefixes and suffixes (morphology), author's purpose, identifying main idea and details, using context to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words, inferencing, sequencing, cause-effect relationships, and other specific reading skills. So, there isn't anything 'common-sense' about it. When most people think of reading, they think of a kid being able to say the words they see printed on the page. This test is waaayyyy more complex than that.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 3 months ago

kugrad: Good points. Many who sit around the coffee shops and gripe because "them schools just ain't as good as when I was there..." would probably have a problem passing the middle school math and reading tests. Thanks to our legislature back in the 1980's, we have very high standards for students to meet.

weeslicket 7 years, 3 months ago

@ kugrad: i've seen this test, and you are exactly correct. but to pile on a bit, readers may be surprised to find out that the tests, in addition to being very challenging, are also poorly written.

readers may be surprised to find out the many of the children (and they ARE children) who produce wrong answers to test items, often do so simply because the test item itself is so poorly delivered.

also, if you really want to see something fascinating, stop in at your neighborhood school when the kindergarteners are being tested online. (psssst...... very few kindergarteners can read)

and to return to the letter. re: House Majority Leader Arlen Siegfreid: liars lie. it's what they do.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 3 months ago

WS: Very good points. The tests are imperfect. Overall they are good for the money. The State Board of Ed's contract with KU has been below market value and above average in performance for many years. If we wanted to invest more for test development, the legislature should fund it adequately. Testing is an imperfect science, but generally, most Kansas kids do pretty well and overall we score in the top ten nationally no matter what the measure. Kansas benefits from a rural climate, which generally produces better test scores than urban areas. The biggest challenges, Wichita, KCK and a handful of other districts, need extra attention and resources to overcome poverty. That's probably the most important lesson any test gives us, but we already know the answer before the tests are given....if you pick the right parents, live in a majority neighborhood and go to a good school, it's highly likely you'll learn something. Who woulda thunk it!

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