Swimming upstream? So what?

If you want better education, you'll like the sound of this BELL

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At a time when state budgets have forced cutbacks in public education across the country, including Augusta, at least one program here is swimming against the tide.

BELL -- Building Educated Leaders for Life -- is a national after-school and summer reading and math tutoring program for elementary and middle-school students designed to "dramatically increase the academic achievements, self-esteem and life opportunities of children living in low-income, urban communities."

It started in Boston in 1992, but came to Augusta only last February through federal Title I money, national BELL funding and a grant from the Community Foundation of the CSRA, as well as other donations.

The program uses certified teachers and teacher's assistants for several hours after school three days a week, and more than six hours a day Monday-Friday during the summer.

The program is popular and spreading because it puts a premium on measurable outcomes. Kids are tested beforehand, and improvements are charted. Of those who scored most poorly in the initial test earlier this year at the 16 schools where BELL was offered here, 62 percent improved their reading proficiency and 67 did better in math.

What BELL may not be able to measure is the difference it makes in children's hearts. Some who might not have valued education before -- or themselves, for that matter -- may now be headed for great things. Who knows?

The point is, they're being given the opportunity and shown the way.

Every one of us can remember a teacher who made a pivotal change in our lives. This program no doubt does that.

It is, of course, a Band-Aid on an education system that, nationally, needs something akin to major surgery. Programs such as BELL, which teach basic math and reading skills -- albeit in innovative ways -- shouldn't be necessary. This is the job of the schools and parents.

Yet, there it is, and BELL has stepped in -- more like jumped in, really. Considering that an already challenged educational system is cutting back, and considering how much help kids need, such programs are truly swimming upstream.

So what? Someone's got to do it.

It's called leadership.

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ohhsweetconcord
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ohhsweetconcord 07/18/10 - 11:13 pm
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I think performing a major

I think performing a major surgery on our education system isn't even possible. Charter schools and private vouchers are other "Band-Aids," but they aren't fix alls. The only way to gain solid results is through small programs like these, but compounded.

GGpap
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GGpap 07/19/10 - 12:24 am
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I feel certain that the BELL

I feel certain that the BELL program, and the teachers that are involved in it, are doing great things for the students that do take advantage of the teaching skills available to them in the summer months while others are lolling on the playgrounds and back lots of American cities playing summer games as their peers toil at expanding their minds and improving their possibilities for success in the future.

However, as the author writes, "Every one of us can remember a teacher who made a pivotal change in our lives..." I'd like to think that the teachers that this statement BEST applies to are those that gave of their time throughout the school year in order to work with students that were in need of "special" attention...not just those that, for remunerative compensation, took on the task in order to supplement their incomes during the summer hiatus.

It is the teachers that recognize a struggling student's need for "special attention" throughout the normal school year, not only with those that place their emphasis on academics alone. These are the teachers that stand ready to provide subtle help in guiding the student in improving self-image and promoting self-confidence skills; the teacher that intercedes on behalf of the student when victimization from bullying becomes apparent---and here I would include the subtle and oft times not so subtle bullying and disparaging comments coming from inconsiderate and insensitive teachers that many students have experienced at one time or another --and by the teachers' personal example of proper decorum in all social situations. Further, the teacher's familiarity with his subject matter and his capability to digress and objectively discuss the issues relative to that subject matter, whether included in the standardized curriculum or not, often has a significant bearing on the pivotal effect a teacher may have on his students.

These are not the teachers that feel a need to impress their administrators, their colleagues, or even the parents of the children in their charge. They are not the teachers that assign chapters and pages to read from the textbooks while they (the teachers) sit behind their desks throughout the class period. They are NOT the teachers that concern themselves with teacher organizations and tenure. There ARE the teachers that truly CARE for the success of their students; and that success is not necessarily measured in the grade book.

These are the pivotal teachers that students will remember if they were fortunate enough to have been assigned to. Dollars alone cannot buy this lasting influence on young minds.

GGpap

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 07/19/10 - 02:37 am
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The BELL seems to be doing

The BELL seems to be doing what the schools should be doing ... teaching to the test. Goal oriented schooling is what the government schools should be focusing on at all times. If vouchers were instituted, concerned parents could choose the most successful systems to send their children to and the competition would cause the other schools to either improve or close or continue the government course. No major surgery is needed, just competent administration. Protecting the teacher unions by denying vouchers will keep our local schools at the bottom of the list. Until we stop doing the same thing and expecting different results, nothing will change. The BELL program makes this clear.

slippery 25
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slippery 25 07/19/10 - 06:30 am
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GGpap great post. Cliff I am

GGpap great post. Cliff I am concerned about where to find competent administrators.

Riverman1
94247
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Riverman1 07/19/10 - 06:39 am
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It's a form of a mentoring

It's a form of a mentoring program even if they are paid. I can deal with that.

seenitB4
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seenitB4 07/19/10 - 06:46 am
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Seems to be a great

Seems to be a great program..If they are paid, so what. I'd rather see tax money going for this rather than more jails.. Keep their minds busy-keep them off the streets.

chascush
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chascush 07/19/10 - 07:53 am
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The school system has being

The school system has being going down a greasing slope since the 60s. It picked up speed in the late 70s when the 2nd worse president ever peanut Carter created two new cabinet-level departments: the Department of Energy and the Department of Education.
The federal govamint takes money from us then gives it back to our schools through the DOE. School continues to go down that greasing slope and will not get any better until we get the federal govamint out. I’m sure the federal govament will do the same out standing job with health care as they have with the schools.

corgimom
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corgimom 07/19/10 - 08:49 am
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In the old days-before

In the old days-before welfare- there was incentive to get an education. There was no other way to succeed except through education and hard work.

Then welfare came along.

There is no incentive now to get an education. Work as an adult? Support a family? Who needs an education when the government will give you things?

THAT'S what has happened to education in the US.

dichotomy
37616
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dichotomy 07/19/10 - 09:23 am
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Why waste all that time

Why waste all that time studying and doing school work when they are going to give you a "certificate" anyway? Once you get your "certificate" you can hotfoot it down to the welfare office and have the government send you a check. I kind of liked the old days when, if you didn't study and do the work, you got nothing but FAILED. And if you were a failure and didn't at least get a menial job you didn't get anything. No check, no cable TV, no air conditioning, no food stamps, nothing. When you got cold and hungry you were, at least then, sort of motivated to get a job and go to work. Unless of course you decided to steal, in which case our judges put you in jail for a really long time doing hard labor on a chain gang. But the "progressives" changed all of that and look how well that has turned out for everyone.......except the taxpayer, and our clueless children whom we have taught that they don't have to be productive to get a "check".

ohhsweetconcord
3
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ohhsweetconcord 07/19/10 - 09:33 am
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Where is all this welfare

Where is all this welfare everyone keeps on talking about? I thought we had welfare reform in 90's that made all these situations impossible.

And if all this "welfare leads to bad education" were true, then what about all the welfare states that kick our butts in international testing?

chascush
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chascush 07/19/10 - 09:36 am
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corgimom, ‘In the old

corgimom, ‘In the old days-before welfare- there was incentive to get an education. There was no other way to succeed except through education and hard work.’
You are correct but it goes even further than that. The entitlement programs have destroyed the family structure especially the black family structure. Over 70% of black babies are born to a single mother. A very large % of the single mothers are on some type of entitlement program. There is no family to make sure the kids BEHAVE must less go to school.

chascush
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chascush 07/19/10 - 11:29 am
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ohhssweetconcord, ‘Where is

ohhssweetconcord, ‘Where is all this welfare everyone keeps on talking about?’

If you live in Richmond county just open your eyes and look around if not just ride thru.
In areas that have high % on welfare the schools are more like detention centers.
‘then what about all the welfare states that kick our butts in international testing? Give me a break

ohhsweetconcord
3
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ohhsweetconcord 07/19/10 - 11:56 am
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chascuch, give me an answer

chascuch, give me an answer and then I'll give you a break. All those social programs in Europe aren't really making them dumber.

So, you're saying that the Republican welfare reform was a failure then?

baronvonreich
1
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baronvonreich 07/19/10 - 12:05 pm
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Great...More government

Great...More government spending to take place of parenting and personal responsibility. It is unsustainable.

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