by Mona Siegel
I attended the Davis school board meeting on Sept. 17 hoping to be won over by the plan that district staff was presenting regarding the AIM program and differentiation in Davis schools. I left with more concerns than when I arrived. Similarly, I opened my copy of The Enterprise on Sept. 18 hoping to see some of the pressing questions raised at the meeting given their full due. I found no such thing.
On the issue of the proposed plan for identifying children to qualify for the AIM program, board members asked Superintendent Winfred Roberson how he and his staff had decided on a 98 percent cut-off on the OLSAT and other qualifying tests. He responded that they came to the 98-percent figure based on “anecdotes” and “conversations.” What anecdotes? What conversations? And how does this number better serve Davis students?
When asked how (or if) differentiated teaching would change classroom practices, Roberson again said he did not know. He was unable to tell the board whether a two-year-old mandate for math differentiation in the elementary schools was being followed throughout the district or how well the program was working. He admitted that teacher training in differentiation would remain optional and that nothing in the current proposal would mandate programmatic changes, such as cluster grouping or smaller classroom sizes.
Members of the board, current teachers, and members of the general public raised these and other important issues on Sept. 17, but none of these merited coverage in The Enterprise’s front-page article. Instead, The Enterprise focused its attention on the one speaker who mentioned a charter school. Her comments, while heartfelt, were hardly representative of the varied questions raised by the dozens of people in the room dedicated to maintaining high-quality programs in the Davis school district.
The Enterprise piece is provocation, not journalism, and does little to advance the type of honest discussion that will be needed for the district to craft a well-conceived program capable of serving all of the district’s students.