Check out the Letter to the Editor below, a response to Out There Monthly editor-in-chief Jon Snyder’s most recent editorial, “Indicating Community,” which discusses recent attempts to focus community improvement efforts in Spokane.

Jon,

Just read your recent editorial and am very familiar with Patrick and the Community Indicators listing.  We occasionally work with Patrick on surveys around the area.

Just a comment about the choice of education attainment as the Task Force’s priority.  I would agree with that choice 100% but what I think happens is a misunderstanding of how to make that happen. Spokane’s high school drop out rate runs fairly similar to the national average in that 1 out of every 3 students who enter high school do not graduate.  To me that is disgraceful.  The problem is that we don’t seem to be addressing the problem properly.

There are a significant number of students who are falling through the cracks because they are being asked to respond to an academic curriculum that is not relevant to them.  These students are more adaptable to a vocationally oriented curriculum that in addition to providing them with basic academic skills in reading, math, and writing, it provides them the opportunity to obtain a trade skill that they can then take directly into the world of work.  This idea that we need to educate all students to attend college is not only bogus, but contributes to the drop out problem and eventually the impact it has on a community’s resources, i.e., welfare, criminal justice system, etc.

I moved to Spokane from Connecticut where within almost every school system there existed a vocational high school along with the more traditional academic oriented high schools.  Students applied in 8thgrade and spent their freshman and sophomore years in an introductory program that allowed them to sample various vocational trades (welding, h/vac, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, culinary, child care, computer programming, etc) before entering a program for their junior and senior years.  Academic classes were alternated with vocational classes.  By the time a student graduated, they not only received a high school diploma, but had enough vocational hours to obtain certification in their chosen field.  Job counselors helped students to secure jobs (as opposed to guidance counselors who hand out college pamphlets!).

In another area, business leaders need to be collaboratively involved in curriculum development at the high school level.  Educators can tend to be out of touch with the “real” world in terms of the types of skills students need to be learning in order to be “gainfully employable”.  And technology is changing so fast, jobs will be created in several years that don’t even exist now.

So, I would encourage your group as you go forward to realistically look at what really will make a difference in helping more students attain their education.  It’s not going to be done by doing more book reports.

Thanks for your time.

John Ryan
Marketing Manager, Strategic Research Associates