Steve Newvine: Potential of local education greater than ever before

If you really want to know, ask the kids

March 16, 2013 

As it happens many times in life, we learn so much more from our children who speak about their challenges, their survival skills and their life lessons. That was the case in Merced in late February when the educational community presented a status report on schools.

About 200 people from all over Merced County were invited to lunch to receive a report on kindergarten through 12th (K-12) grade student achievement. The lunch was sponsored by the Merced County Office of Education. Program materials listed more than 70 sponsors of the MCOE Foundation.

As most annual report events go, this one had all the elements that one would expect.

There were the post-lunch introductions of the local political and community leaders who were in attendance; although, thankfully, the superintendent grouped many of these officials into sections such as "elected office holders" and "school board members".

Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services Kathy Pon did a presentation on California's Common Core Standards that are being implemented into classrooms right now.

These standards are intended to help students be better prepared for college and-or the work force by building on a pyramid of skills.

County School Superintendent Steve Gomes narrated Powerpoint slides that touched on the statewide measurement system for a school's academic performance and how it measures schools of similar sizes.

This system is known as the Academic Performance Index (API), and according to the data in the printed version of the report, about 40 percent of the county's 80 schools are at or above the recommended target.

But the most memorable parts of the program came before the reports from the school officials started. Organizers invited two students to give presentations on how their lives have been positively impacted by their school experiences.

Koata Moua is a student in the Career Technical program better known as ROP (Regional Occupancy Program).

Delainie Inman is a student at UC Merced who shared her experience as a high school student initially seeking to go to college somewhere other than the valley. She would change her mind and attend UC Merced.

The decision to use students as presenters was a good one. The audience response to their stories drove home the point about why so many people remain focused on how our children are doing at school.

We could all relate to their stories of overcoming obstacles, changing their minds when convinced that there may be alternative solutions to traditional thinking, enabling them to achieve success at all levels.

It was refreshing to see their enthusiasm, their brevity and their poise.

Speaking in front of 200 people is no easy task. When you are a teenager, the challenge is even more imposing. Both did a great job. We could all learn a thing or two from their life lessons.

The state of schools in Merced County is promising. There are always challenges. Even in a flourishing economy, schools come under the microscope. Times are tough now, but no one is ready to give up.

There's too much at stake to stop trying. Certainly Delainie and Koata are not giving up. We can all learn lessons from them.

Newvine lives in Merced. He serves on the MCOE P-16 Council, the Business Education Alliance of Merced and the Merced County Workforce Investment Board.

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