Today’s news:

The Civic Scene: In fixing education, only fix what’s broken

We are going through another round of proposals to "fix" our public schools.

The quality of the education is of importance to the civic and tenant associations in Queens because the schools are one aspect of the community that make it a nice place to live in and raise children. The senior citizens in a community are concerned about the schools, along with other things in the community, because the quality of the schools helps determine the value of their homes or co-ops.

My feelings are that there are many positive things about our schools besides the problems. Yet, there are also problems in other communities outside of New York City. One look at the statistics will show that Queens high school graduates earned more than $50 million in scholarships and awards last June.

Students in the smaller schools earned hundreds of thousands of dollars while those in the larger schools earned millions of dollars in scholarships in the graduating class of 1999.

Just last week, the results of the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search competition listed nine semifinalists from Queens schools. Many others who placed were reared and educated in Queens primary and junior high schools but attend high school in other boroughs.

If you factor in the students who win math, foreign language, chemistry, physics, biology, computer technology, art, engineering, dramatics and innumerable other contests, you will see that many students do succeed in our schools.

Read beyond the sensational negative headlines and you will see the many success stories. This newspaper just featured a positive front-page story about Hillcrest High School, which received a New York State Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award from the New York State Department of Education. Many similar stories can be found in the media.

Destroying the New York City Board of Education will not achieve anything but to destroy the functioning programs we have. To make the schools better and turn out better educated students, we have to solve the problems.

The success of our schools is measured by test scores. Last year a new type of reading examination was introduced. It posed new problems.

For the first time, students not only had to give the correct answers but had to listen to a teacher reading information to them, and then take notes and write answers.

This is a worthwhile skill, but it was not tested previously nor had teachers systematically taught these skills in elementary schools. The reading scores should go up in the future because teachers are now teaching these new skills. Why am I the only writer saying this?

Another complaint is that more "good" teachers are needed, whatever that means. What new teachers need is training and help in dealing with large classes and logistical problems in urban schools.

The problem is that when young teachers are educated they are often taught under ideal conditions and satisfy their student-teaching requirements in the best class in the school.

To help new teachers, the Board of Education has set up a mentoring system, but it sometimes doesn't start when the school year starts, if at all. Funding seems to be a problem.

It is hard for any teacher to teach a class of 32 students if one or more students are cocaine- or heroine- or alcohol syndrome-addicted children.

It is hard for a teacher to teach a child if the child misses more than one day a week. Some children are homeless. Some children are physically abused.

Some parents just don't know how to parent and should be required to attend parenting classes. Every time you read something or see something on television about a child or teenager in trouble, you should remember that this child is supposed to succeed in school or will be counted as a failure by society.

Can the schools compete with TV shows, videos, dramatic movies and superstars for the attention of our children?

There are numerous programs in our schools to help students. Are there enough? Most are probably under-funded. There are now many professionals in the schools who could provide us with solutions.

Will destroying the present system and starting over solve the basic social, cultural and economic problems that our children face?

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: Our political leaders are all stressing doing more for education in their policy speeches focusing on the year ahead. Some of our political leaders are not looking at our schools' attributes and are proposing radical changes.

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