Letter to the Editor

To improve Prince George’s schools, focus on the classroom, not the boardroom

Regarding the March 24 Metro article “Baker fought on plan for schools”:

Whatever the governance structure for Prince George’s County Public Schools, here is the question that it must answer: Will it really make a difference in academic achievement and the public perception of county schools?

This debate about governance could be little more than moving furniture about the deck of a ship. One Rutgers University study of nine cities found “no conclusive evidence that changes in governance improve achievement.”

The real solution lies in getting the county’s largest and most vociferously critical spectators — parents, families and other community members — involved in education in a focused and coordinated way. Research suggests that big improvements could be made if these groups helped their neighborhood schools in just three ways:

●Improving behavior and decreasing the number of suspensions for disrespect, insubordination and classroom disruption, which have many consequences, including high teacher turnover and budget costs;

●Helping to cut chronic absenteeism and truancy, which leads to missed opportunities for learning as well as juvenile delinquency and lower graduation rates; and

●Increasing the amount of out-of-school learning, which is key to honing the skills learned inside the classroom.

While governance of the school system is certainly important, it does not seem to be the most important way to improve the issue that is front and center in the public’s mind. Different, and equally as thorny, reforms are needed for a real improvement in student achievement.

Gerron S. Levi, Mitchellville

The writer, a Democrat, represented Prince George’s County in the Maryland House of Delegates from 2007 to 2011.

 
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