By Keith Tucker
Regarding the school report cards for West Las Vegas and Las Vegas City schools, I am disappointed but not surprised.
Before I talk about the grades, it must be pointed out that the information online at the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) website to explain the grading criteria, process, and reasoning, which I did take the time to read, is just about as clear as the U.S. Tax Code. However, the professionals we have employed by the two school districts here should be experts, or are becoming experts, in understanding what this information tells us all about the state of the schools here in Las Vegas.
To me, based on the NMPED criteria and grades, the state of the schools here is poor to mediocre, which, to be fair, places Las Vegas with the majority of schools in New Mexico.
As the father of three students, I have dealt with numerous teachers, administrators and staff in both districts over the years. The majority of these people are hard-working, capable people who have the interests of the kids at heart. After all, a person does not consciously go into education without knowing that the point is to educate, right?
So why the C and D grades? Could be that some or all of the teachers are not teaching correctly, or it could be that they don’t have the resources to teach correctly. Could be that both of the administrations are not leading the districts with vision, or they are not focusing on academics but rather spend most of their time on the other ancillary duties they are also tasked with. Could be the school boards are not seeing that their models are broken, that what has worked in the past is not working now, that perhaps two districts in a town our size is not a good idea, or that the focus of both the districts is not on academic success but on their own agendas.
It is likely that it is some of each of these reasons above. What I also believe to be a major contributor is that the majority of students’ parents are not getting involved in how schools are teaching their most precious asset — their kids.
If we as parents are not visiting the schools, not talking to the teachers, not reviewing our kids’ in-class work and homework, not getting involved, not pushing the administrations, then we can’t totally blame the schools for the low grades if we don’t care ourselves!
I understand that we all send our kids to school to learn because we parents have to work to pay for everything life hits us with, while teachers are the people who get paid to teach, but this is a collaborative effort on everyone’s part. Schools are not simply places to stick the kids so we parents can go to work. Parents need to set aside some time daily to help their own kids learn, teachers need to find ways to motivate all the kids in their classes, and the administration and the school boards simply need to realize that what they are doing and advocating is not working.
By the way, if you look at the breakdown in grades for individual Vegas schools on the website, you will see that a couple of schools barely made “Cs,” and if not for “Bonus Points” — extra credit if you will — their grades would actually be “Ds.”
I am sure a lot of finger-pointing, blame-shifting, spinning, etc. will be going on now as all parties attempt to deflect blame, but the bottom line is the kids. How many of us really want our 22-year old, or even 42-year old, still living with us because they can’t get a job after having dropped out or weren’t taught what they needed to know to get a job in the real world? Kids in Las Vegas and New Mexico deserve better than that.
Let’s get to work — parents, teachers, administrations and school boards. Let’s all get off our high horses, drop the holier-than-thou attitudes, stop being lazy, forget the finger-pointing, and start educating our kids. Then we adults can turn these “Cs” and “Ds” into “As” and “Bs” and feel better about ourselves, finally realizing that the success of our kids is what we adults should have been working for all along!
Keith Tucker is president of Commmunity 1st Bank, although the opinions he expresses in this column are solely his own. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.