Adequate per-student spending needed for school achievement

Adequate per-student spending needed for school achievement

Tom Letourneau asserts that “High per-student spending not answer to achievement” in his latest letter to the editor. High spending may not be a necessity in all cases, but adequate funding certainly is. And adequate funding is what has been advocated for in Cumberland, year after year. Comparisons are made to other districts because we have similar costs, similar regulatory requirements, similar aspirations, and we compete for the same educational talent. And because decisions about the propriety of expenditures should not made in a vacuum.

Over the past decade Cumberland has done well with the financial resources it has been given to turn around a once failing and stagnant district. Cumberland has achieved remarkable success by adopting much the same approach Massachusetts did to achieve their educational renaissance: a combination of and cumulative effect of greater community involvement and support, a focus on outcomes. a data-driven goals-oriented approach to planning and execution, greater teacher accountability and professional development, increased academic rigor, and additional financial investments from both the state and town.

Rather than rest on their laurels, the educational professionals and leaders in Cumberland are digging in to the data to determine how to improve achievement and scholarship. The test scores, while laudable, do not mean that every student is achieving at the desired levels, the levels that our society needs them to be. Educational professionals and advocates realize that there is more to a successful well-rounded student than achievement in English and Math, more to a high-achieving school district than good grade 3-8 RICAS scores.

This year’s scores are one data point, which while part of an upward trend over the past several years does not mean “job done.” The sciences, history, the arts, athletics, life skills, study skills, technology skills, and myriad other disciplines and grade levels that weren’t tested by RICAS are integral to helping our students become productive and contributing members of society. By one prediction some 85 percent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented. You cannot prepare students for that type of economy by looking backward, as Mr. Letourneau does. One must look forward, knowing that education is an evolving discipline and that the tasks of improvement and adaptation are continuous ones, never truly completed.

The achievements of our students belong to them, and their teachers, and the administrators, parents, and town leaders who refused to give into the negativity of the naysayers or listen to the ignorance and vitriol so often expressed in the letters to the editor and comment section of The Valley Breeze.

Steve Hess