Disagreements can foster better understanding

To the editor:

We all can agree that reading proficiency and literacy is critically important. Most recognize our district’s reading proficiency is falling short of our expectations. This is true nationally. The achievement gap is unacceptable. We must take corrective action. If we share these common concerns, then let’s have a civil discussion how to solve them.

At the Nov. 14 school board meeting, we heard an almost two hour presentation on a proposed secondary reading curriculum. A new curriculum was piloted by some of our teachers. Their testimonials were very positive. We heard repeatedly how much students enjoyed reading using the new program. What we didn’t hear was whether reading proficiency objectively improved during the pilot period. For those students who struggle with reading, it wasn’t clear how this new curriculum would move the needle. Was any other curriculum trialed and compared head to head with the one presented? Why use ten year old Minnesota Department of Education literacy standards when the standards are about to change?

When the new curriculum failed to receive majority board approval, some became angry and accused board members of not trusting teachers. No one should conflate the proposal with the people proposing it. No one is questioning the passion, dedication, and knowledge of our teachers. No other level of government relies on trust as a primary reason to support a proposal. Board members have a fiduciary responsibility to question how tax dollars are appropriated, and whether clear objectives will be achieved with that investment. Questions and oversight raise expectations. Oversight holds leaders accountable. Accountability elevates performance.

When students come to class, how do teachers determine whether students understand the material? Do students say, “trust me, I understand everything?” No. Student proficiency is objectively evaluated through testing.

We must avoid important discussions devolving into us vs them conflicts. Board members, teachers, and administrators should be able to disagree without being accused of vindictiveness. Disagreements can foster better understanding. If we can learn to understand one another better, we can solve problems together. Hopefully, that’s something we can all agree on.

Zis Weisberg

Stillwater

Bill ensures greater access to care

To the editor:

As we recognize National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, I want to applaud and thank our Members of the House of Representatives for passing H.R. 647, the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA).

This legislation will improve education for patients, families, and health professionals about the benefits of hospice and palliative care while bringing person-centered, holistic care to patients suffering from severe illness. Growing demand means that we must change the way care is provided in this country, and this bill ensures that there will be greater access to care for patients and more educational opportunities for hospice and palliative care providers.

It is time for the Senate to act and bring this bill closer to the President’s desk. During this month of hospice and palliative care awareness, I encourage advocates, patients, and caregivers alike to ask our Senators to pass PCHETA (S.2080) and ensure a strong healthcare workforce and improved access to care for all patients.

Julia Clark

Stillwater

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