Letter: Failing grades for our school system

Posted 11/18/21

Intrigued by an enlightening opinion letter of the Nov. 11 Phoenix (“School district isn’t racist — but it is failing”), stating the math and science proficiency of Mt Hope …

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Letter: Failing grades for our school system


Intrigued by an enlightening opinion letter of the Nov. 11 Phoenix (“School district isn’t racist — but it is failing”), stating the math and science proficiency of Mt Hope High School students as, “36% of students meeting minimum expectations in math, and fewer than 52% in science”,  I felt compelled to explore further.

Starting at the Bristol Warren School District’s own site, I was unsuccessful at locating specific stats. I went to another source, publicschoolreview.com, which cites a 40% Mathematics proficiency rate of Mt. Hope students. Further scrolling down on the same site revealed an interesting graph showing the Mt. Hope Math proficiency from 2010 to 2014 as hovering at a more impressive 65 to 70%.

Then, in the 2014-2015 school year, the percentage dropped down to below 40, and stayed consistently at 40% until info was last recorded in 2019. Note these are all pre-pandemic stats.

Admittedly, I am neither a statistician nor an educator, so perhaps there are factors and intricacies in the interpretation of these numbers that are unknown to me, accounting for the sudden drop to these alarmingly poor scores. But, I am a taxpayer and concerned for the future of our schoolchildren.

In contrast, Barrington High School’s Math Proficiency is 77%, despite paying more than $3,000 less per student, as mentioned in last week’s letter. 

Also of interest was the Phoenix’s front-page article and photo depicting Mt. Hope students calling for the resignation of some of the school board members for denying approval of a contract to conduct professional development by a consultant who ”focuses on black and brown students,” as quoted by a spokesperson for the Mt Hope Student Union. Demographics from easily navigable sites reveal that 86 to 90 percent of Mt. Hope students are white. There is no doubt that that the future of, as well as awareness of the history of the minority students in Mt. Hope are important considerations.

Just as important is addressing the reality that the needs of a shocking 60 percent of the students are not being met by their educators. Most high school students have cell phones, but how many of them are inspired to learn how they work, and intend to pursue careers in critical scientific fields? hese are the lucrative jobs of the future, not jobs in the Hospitality or the Human Services industries. 

President Biden argues that “it is essential that we refresh and reinvigorate the national science and technology strategy to set the U.S. on a strong course for the next 75 years … so that our children and grandchildren may inhabit a healthier, safer, more just, peaceful, and prosperous world.”

With only so much energy, time  and financial resources available in our schools, it seems a more relevant and comprehensive focus would be on improving the Math and Science grades of all of its students, helping to prepare them for the competitive world of tomorrow.  

Jean Sharac

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.