May 2011 Column

The end of another school year is a time for celebration – and I’m not just talking about the fist pumping our Hobbs High School seniors so joyously engaged in last week.

For students and staff alike, this is a time to reflect on the school year and recount accomplishments. For our teachers, those accomplishments include the self-satisfaction of helping a student progress in his or her intellectual development. That progress can range from a kindergartner mastering the alphabet to a high school junior comprehending a mathematical formula.  Ultimately, accomplishment is measured as promotion to the next grade level.  And for 420 HHS students this year, the reward for years of accomplishment was marching across a stage last Saturday to collect a diploma.

As I reflect on the school year and the district’s accomplishments – notably the completion of major construction projects including the freshman high school – I realize that public education is a fluid process.  We become engrained with our friends, classmates, teachers, students and schools for 180 days.  Then suddenly, it seems we depart for a short break we call summer only to begin the process all over again.

Personally and professionally I wonder if there’s a better way to move students along their academic path. We live in a diverse world where students learn at varying levels and abilities . Yet students are placed in grades based solely on their physical age, regardless of their academic ability. Teachers are then faced with the task of teaching to a variety of intellectual levels in one classroom.  It is not uncommon to have students in the same class with reading levels ranging from the first to the twelfth grade and beyond. Wouldn’t it make much more sense to divide students based on their intellectual age?  That way, students on the same academic level would advance based upon the merits and progress of their achievements rather than a calendar.  To me, it’s a scenario that would allow our schools to accomplish the most for our students. But even I realize that’s not a realistic approach.

  In order to make such a plan work, we would have to instruct students of varying age in the same classroom.  The result would be classrooms where 10-year-old children are learning beside 19-year- old teenagers. Due to the concern many parents expressed over having freshmen in the same school as seniors, I doubt many of us would want our younger children in the same building (let alone classroom) as a near-adult.  Therefore we maintain the status quo, celebrate the end of the school year every May and prepare for another adventure come August.

It’s a time-honored tradition that graduating high school seniors will now leave their nest of parental support and be thrust into the world to fend for themselves.  Although some feel overburdened by the daily demands of high school, most will realize in years to come that their secondary education was the most serene time of their life.

Whether they leave Hobbs High School in pursuit of a college degree, enter the workforce or enlist in the military, the demands on time, energy and money will increase tenfold.  We are confident the requirements placed on our graduating seniors by teachers and administrators have prepared them to be successful members of the greatest society in the world. As superintendent of Hobbs Municipal Schools, I want to thank the class of 2011 for their future contributions - and wish them the best of luck in whatever path they choose.

 

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