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Monday, April 13, 2009

Are Lawmakers Considering "Other Options" on Scotland School?

Several state lawmakers and parents are protesting Governor Rendell's proposed closing of Scotland School (HT GrassrootsPA) - a school ostensibly for children of veterans - claiming we must first have "proper and thorough evaluation of all other options."

But are state lawmakers even open to "other options"?  All I hear are demands to keep the status quo - taxpayer funding of a school with exorbitant costs and poor performance - not an exploration of other options. The Commonwealth Foundation outlined four options as alternatives for Scotland students, which would provide better educational services at lower costs:

  1. Establish a residential charter school to serve Scotland students.
  2. Establish charter schools for children of military families.
  3. Expand Pennsylvania's EITC scholarship program.
  4. Create a state-funded scholarship program.
The Patriot News meanwhile, present both the pro and con position of closing the school.

Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak:

On the PSSA, the standard test measuring performance in all Pennsylvania schools, only 38.4 percent of Scotland School students were at grade level in math, and just 54.6 percent were at grade level in reading. In fifth grade, 88 percent of Scotland students were below grade level in reading and math. And by 11th grade, the last year in which students are tested before they graduate, nearly four in five Scotland students were found to be below grade level in math, and nearly half did not have the reading skills they will need to compete in the job market. 

Scotland School's curriculum does not compare favorably to the courses generally offered by other schools spending far less. Scotland School offers no Advanced Placement (AP) classes, no honors classes, and no opportunity to enroll juniors and seniors in courses that offer the prospect of receiving early college credit. In fact, there's no evidence of any high-level course work at the school.
Scotland graduate Dennis Ero:
There are many other reasons for keeping the school open. The savings -- only four- tenths of one percent of the proposed state budget -- shrinks with the offsetting costs of social services and programs that many of the students will require, the cost of shutting and mothballing the facility, the cost of retraining, etc.

The suggestion that it should be closed because of test scores doesn't hold up under the more meaningful measure of the real-life success of Scotland graduates. Nearly every graduate goes on to further his or her education and/or embark on a productive career.

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