Current weather

  • Scattered clouds
  • 54°
    Scattered clouds

Lettors to the Editor

Posted: Monday, March 05, 2001

Why not test students before they are allowed to enter high school

Since the exit exams have come under fire and are being rethought, let's really think outside the box.

Can we agree that:

1. High school courses should be more advanced than elementary courses, but not as demanding as college courses?

2. In order to comprehend high school courses adequately, a student must be able to read, write and do basic math? (I define basic math as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of whole numbers, decimals and fractions; an understanding of exponents and square roots and percentages.)

3. A student who cannot read, write or do basic math has no business in the high school classroom holding back the students who are capable of the work?

This, to me, is the essence of what high school should be. It should not be a warehouse for kids -- a place to keep them off the streets, away from the job market and out of our hair until they attain the age of majority.

If we agree on these premises, then the logical solution to the exit exam is: Structure the exam to be a high school entrance exam. Let it test if the student can read, write and do basic math (so yes, the current math test would need to take out the simple algebra and geometry problems in it now).

A child does not get to go to high school until he passes all three sections. It is way too late to inform him he doesn't have the skills to be there after a child has wasted two years in "high school" already. The high school diploma will then mean something again. (If you remember, this whole thing started because we were graduating seniors who couldn't read.)

Talk about incentive to study! What teen-ager wants to be held back from starting high school? Those who don't pass will need to take strict remedial courses in reading, writing and basic math until they pass it. If they can't do those things, why try to teach them high school material?

In conjunction with this, perhaps there should be vocational-technical high schools which aim to prepare non-college bound students for a profession. High school students may opt to transfer to this school if they know they aren't headed for college.

Those who can't pass the high school entrance exams could still take courses at the vo-tech if they have given up on the exams -- but they would get a different diploma. This would allow special ed students to get training in a vocation and better equip themselves to be productive. If they aren't able to pass the entrance exams, they aren't likely to be heading toward college anyway, and the high school courses will be less useful than life skills.

Meanwhile, back in high school, there would be a level playing field.

There would be no basic math classes in high school -- pre-Algebra would be as easy as it got. In science, it would be understood that all students had a basic understanding of math, and build from there. English and social

studies teachers would know that their students were able to read the assigned material, and all could expect a certain level of written competancy. And the diploma should again stand for a level of achievement.

Isn't this what was intended when we began down this road?

Vicki Pate

Nikiski

It's wrong to let government hide decision-making process

There are many reasons to appeal Judge Brown's decision that the city of Homer can hide department head memos because of a supposed "deliberative process privilege," but mostly, it's just plain wrong.

These memos contain the financial estimates the Homer city manager relied on when drafting the city's Petition to Annex. This information needs to be public, so that any decisions made concerning annexation will be well-informed ones. Without the department heads' own estimates, how can we check the validity of the petition? We were able to check the road maintenance proposal against borough numbers, and the petition's estimate was low by over 50 percent. It is logical to assume the rest could be just as far out of whack.

An annexation based on false estimates would be a disaster for everyone; the truth needs to be revealed. It is wrong for the city to cook up a plan behind closed doors and then forbid any examination of the assumptions behind it.

The basic concept behind the deliberative process privilege is flawed -- that hiding government deliberations somehow leads to good government decisions. In fact, the opposite is true, as only by exposing decision-making to the light can government be kept both honest and wise.

Governments that operate in the dark easily hide wrongdoing, whether outright corruption or just plain incompetence. The current regime in Homer is repressive enough without giving them a whole new way to operate in secret. Just because we are close to Russia doesn't mean we have to let our local government emulate the Soviets!

If these memos can be kept secret there is no limit to what else can be kept secret. We have enough trouble already with a city government that operates behind closed doors and keeps the public in the dark! This ruling allows municipal governments to hide their decision-making process. The public gets no input. We are not allowed to know anything but the final decision. Where are the checks and balances? There is no accountability without openness. Knowledge is power; if power is to remain in the hands of the citizens, we must have open government. We must know what our would-be rulers are up to. If we lose open government we will lose freedom along with it.

Abigail Fuller

Homer

Borough should do business consistent with open meetings act

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly recently voiced support for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. My assembly representative voted against the resolution introduced by Tim Navarre to support such activity. A smart vote.

The remainder of the assembly apparently was convinced of the validity of a slick, glossy pamphlet distributed by Mike Navarre to the assembly. This pamphlet, published by "Alaska Women in Timber," a Ketchikan based pro-timber industry group, presents a convincing, if one-sided, argument for opening ANWR. None of the info in the pamphlet seems to indicate any connection between the North Slope and timber, however. Included inside the pamphlet were several publications from "Arctic Power," a state and industry funded propaganda organization dedicated to promoting oil exploration in ANWR. So, assembly sees and assembly does.

What's the problem?

Well, the "lay down" resolution was not on the published agenda for one thing. It was introduced at the meeting. If the public were notified of this resolution, as the Alaska Open Meetings Act requires for important items, perhaps a more balanced position would have been presented from individuals or organizations who could debate many of the claims of AWIT and AP.

The amount of oil likely in ANWR is by no means a pittance, but it would not in any substantial way provide a solution to the nation's long-term reliance on imported oil. Is the borough considering its own long-term economic health in this resolution? None of the information in the materials presented showed projected jobs or an economic impact assessment for the KPB. What would be the impact to the KPB if ANWR were not opened soon? What would be the impact if ANWR were opened in 2050? In 2075?

Global oil production will likely peak sometime between 2010 and 2020 (World Resources Institute). The United States needs to adopt an energy policy that acknowledges this and incorporates strategies for reducing this country's dependence on oil accordingly. As less oil becomes available, less consumption needs to take place, and energy needs to come from sources other than oil.

Within that strategy could be a plan to use ANWR oil only as a last resort, on the tail end of global oil production, perhaps in 50 or 75 years, when the oil will be considerably more valuable, could play a substantial role in providing for the country's diminished oil requirements, and could be extracted even more safely and responsibly than is currently possible.

Unfortunately, the U.S. is still trying to solve a long-term problem with short-sighted supply-side methods that ignore the realities of the future. The oil under ANWR is a national resource. Will the people of the country benefit from drilling there now, or just the oil industry and whoever is getting greased?

Opening ANWR may seem like a matter not worth debating at the borough level, and perhaps the assembly would have voted exactly the way they did even with notice of the resolution and more information from the opposition.

This belies the point, however, that the borough should be conducting its business in a manner consistent with the intent of the Alaska Open Meetings Act, and providing opportunity for materials or comments to be presented by the public on all sides of an issue.

The ANWR issue is an important and controversial one nationally and locally, and the assembly should treat it as they should treat the public: with respect.

Dale Banks

Homer

Why not test students before they

are allowed to enter high school?

Since the exit exams have come under fire and are being rethought, let's really think outside the box.

Can we agree that:

1. High school courses should be more advanced than elementary courses, but not as demanding as college courses?

2. In order to comprehend high school courses adequately, a student must be able to read, write and do basic math? (I define basic math as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of whole numbers, decimals and fractions; an understanding of exponents and square roots and percentages.)

3. A student who cannot read, write or do basic math has no business in the high school classroom holding back the students who are capable of the work?

This, to me, is the essence of what high school should be. It should not be a warehouse for kids -- a place to keep them off the streets, away from the job market and out of our hair until they attain the age of majority.

If we agree on these premises, then the logical solution to the exit exam is: Structure the exam to be a high school entrance exam. Let it test if the student can read, write and do basic math (so yes, the current math test would need to take out the simple algebra and geometry problems in it now).

A child does not get to go to high school until he passes all three sections. It is way too late to inform him he doesn't have the skills to be there after a child has wasted two years in "high school" already. The high school diploma will then mean something again. (If you remember, this whole thing started because we were graduating seniors who couldn't read.)

Talk about incentive to study! What teen-ager wants to be held back from starting high school? Those who don't pass will need to take strict remedial courses in reading, writing and basic math until they pass it. If they can't do those things, why try to teach them high school material?

In conjunction with this, perhaps there should be vocational-technical high schools which aim to prepare non-college bound students for a profession. High school students may opt to transfer to this school if they know they aren't headed for college.

Those who can't pass the high school entrance exams could still take courses at the vo-tech if they have given up on the exams -- but they would get a different diploma. This would allow special ed students to get training in a vocation and better equip themselves to be productive. If they aren't able to pass the entrance exams, they aren't likely to be heading toward college anyway, and the high school courses will be less useful than life skills.

Meanwhile, back in high school, there would be a level playing field.

There would be no basic math classes in high school -- pre-Algebra would be as easy as it got. In science, it would be understood that all students had a basic understanding of math, and build from there. English and social

studies teachers would know that their students were able to read the assigned material, and all could expect a certain level of written competancy. And the diploma should again stand for a level of achievement.

Isn't this what was intended when we began down this road?

Vicki Pate

Nikiski

It's wrong to let government

hide decision-making process

There are many reasons to appeal Judge Brown's decision that the city of Homer can hide department head memos because of a supposed "deliberative process privilege," but mostly, it's just plain wrong.

These memos contain the financial estimates the Homer city manager relied on when drafting the city's Petition to Annex. This information needs to be public, so that any decisions made concerning annexation will be well-informed ones. Without the department heads' own estimates, how can we check the validity of the petition? We were able to check the road maintenance proposal against borough numbers, and the petition's estimate was low by over 50 percent. It is logical to assume the rest could be just as far out of whack.

An annexation based on false estimates would be a disaster for everyone; the truth needs to be revealed. It is wrong for the city to cook up a plan behind closed doors and then forbid any examination of the assumptions behind it.

The basic concept behind the deliberative process privilege is flawed -- that hiding government deliberations somehow leads to good government decisions. In fact, the opposite is true, as only by exposing decision-making to the light can government be kept both honest and wise.

Governments that operate in the dark easily hide wrongdoing, whether outright corruption or just plain incompetence. The current regime in Homer is repressive enough without giving them a whole new way to operate in secret. Just because we are close to Russia doesn't mean we have to let our local government emulate the Soviets!

If these memos can be kept secret there is no limit to what else can be kept secret. We have enough trouble already with a city government that operates behind closed doors and keeps the public in the dark! This ruling allows municipal governments to hide their decision-making process. The public gets no input. We are not allowed to know anything but the final decision. Where are the checks and balances? There is no accountability without openness. Knowledge is power; if power is to remain in the hands of the citizens, we must have open government. We must know what our would-be rulers are up to. If we lose open government we will lose freedom along with it.

Abigail Fuller

Homer

Borough should do business

consistent with open meetings act

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly recently voiced support for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. My assembly representative voted against the resolution introduced by Tim Navarre to support such activity. A smart vote.

The remainder of the assembly apparently was convinced of the validity of a slick, glossy pamphlet distributed by Mike Navarre to the assembly. This pamphlet, published by "Alaska Women in Timber," a Ketchikan based pro-timber industry group, presents a convincing, if one-sided, argument for opening ANWR. None of the info in the pamphlet seems to indicate any connection between the North Slope and timber, however. Included inside the pamphlet were several publications from "Arctic Power," a state and industry funded propaganda organization dedicated to promoting oil exploration in ANWR. So, assembly sees and assembly does.

What's the problem?

Well, the "lay down" resolution was not on the published agenda for one thing. It was introduced at the meeting. If the public were notified of this resolution, as the Alaska Open Meetings Act requires for important items, perhaps a more balanced position would have been presented from individuals or organizations who could debate many of the claims of AWIT and AP.

The amount of oil likely in ANWR is by no means a pittance, but it would not in any substantial way provide a solution to the nation's long-term reliance on imported oil. Is the borough considering its own long-term economic health in this resolution? None of the information in the materials presented showed projected jobs or an economic impact assessment for the KPB. What would be the impact to the KPB if ANWR were not opened soon? What would be the impact if ANWR were opened in 2050? In 2075?

Global oil production will likely peak sometime between 2010 and 2020 (World Resources Institute). The United States needs to adopt an energy policy that acknowledges this and incorporates strategies for reducing this country's dependence on oil accordingly. As less oil becomes available, less consumption needs to take place, and energy needs to come from sources other than oil.

Within that strategy could be a plan to use ANWR oil only as a last resort, on the tail end of global oil production, perhaps in 50 or 75 years, when the oil will be considerably more valuable, could play a substantial role in providing for the country's diminished oil requirements, and could be extracted even more safely and responsibly than is currently possible.

Unfortunately, the U.S. is still trying to solve a long-term problem with short-sighted supply-side methods that ignore the realities of the future. The oil under ANWR is a national resource. Will the people of the country benefit from drilling there now, or just the oil industry and whoever is getting greased?

Opening ANWR may seem like a matter not worth debating at the borough level, and perhaps the assembly would have voted exactly the way they did even with notice of the resolution and more information from the opposition.

This belies the point, however, that the borough should be conducting its business in a manner consistent with the intent of the Alaska Open Meetings Act, and providing opportunity for materials or comments to be presented by the public on all sides of an issue.

The ANWR issue is an important and controversial one nationally and locally, and the assembly should treat it as they should treat the public: with respect.

Dale Banks

Homer



CONTACT US

  • 150 Trading Bay Rd, Kenai, AK 99611
  • Switchboard: 907-283-7551
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-283-3584
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Business Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-335-1257
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback

ADVERTISING

SUBSCRIBER SERVICES

SOCIAL NETWORKING

MORRIS ALASKA NEWS