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EDITOR'S NOTE: This editorial was updated Dec. 30 to include the most recent state test score results, which further support the editorial's stance.

As children return to school after the holiday, parents, the media, and business leaders should keep a closer eye on classroom performance and outcomes. They should make 2022 the year of public education reform — a turning point that ensures children of all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds receive the educations they deserve.

The Gazette’s editorial board, along with voters, demanded change by supporting and electing a slate of candidates who promised to put all major Colorado Springs metro-area school districts back into the control of parents. In their new roles, they face a heavy lift.

Establishment administrators and teachers’ unions have spent generations lowering standards and failing to properly educate students. Those with the least — the children of low-income households — suffer the most. That means schools do the most harm to ethnic minorities who deserve futures no less promising than children of non-minority parents who, on average, have disproportionately higher incomes.

The Gazette’s decision to endorse new candidates came after the release of an alarming “report card” compiled by a private organization using Colorado government data from 2019. It showed most elementary children in the city’s central school system, District 11, were not rated as “proficient” in basic subjects as determined by Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) tests.

While only 38% of all children in D-11 were proficient in English Language Arts (ELA) and 31% in math, the numbers are more alarming when we look at minority students separately. Only 15% of the district’s Black students were proficient in math and 23% in English Language Arts. Latino students didn’t fare much better. Overall, D-11 scored 159th lowest among Colorado’s 183 school districts. With few exceptions, nearly all major districts in the Springs metro area generated similarly troubling data.

Black lives matter, but our local education leaders allow Black children to grow up without the basic skills needed to succeed.

And, no, we cannot blame COVID-19, as these numbers preceded the COVID shutdowns. Tragically, the CMAS results for 2021 (testing was suspended in 2020) reveal student proficiency levels continued to drop across our school system after reopening.

In D-11, ELA proficiency of all children is now 34% — down 4 points; math proficiency is 17% — down 14 points. For Black students, ELA proficiency is down 2 points to 21% and math proficiency has plummeted to just 5%! Yes, only 1 out of 20 Black students in D-11 can add and subtract at grade level. While D-11 saw the most dramatic drop in test scores, all major metro-area districts realized academic decline.

Parents are onto this all over Colorado and demanding change. New board members must remember they run the schools and answer to parents — not superintendents and teachers' unions. They must pursue the following to achieve our culture’s proclaimed dedication to “equity” for the underprivileged:

• Initiate and enforce policies that remove all racial indoctrination from classrooms to avoid making minorities feel inferior and victimized

• Invite, encourage, and welcome parents into classrooms to observe and critique teachers and the instructions they provide

• Encourage and authorize more charter schools dedicated to addressing special needs and talents of children who don’t fit the one-size-fits-all education mold. (Example: the charter schools initiated by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis for homeless children and others in difficult circumstances)

• Demand the Colorado Association of School Boards represent community interests as a condition of continued membership

• Tie all increased funding — whether raised by bonds or tax increases — to measurable academic results. Hold funds in escrow until schools achieve specified minimal outcomes

• Consider restructuring schools as charters if they consistently fail to meet or exceed state proficiency standards

• Prioritize spending more on classrooms and less on administration

• Make all collective bargaining public and decided by elected school boards, not the administrators they employ

New school board members experience intense pressure from establishment administrators and unions to allow business as usual. Do not cave. The old way is failing our children and doing the most harm among minorities who need a fair and equitable chance at succeeding in life.

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