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[Susan notes: The letter writer points to the need for alternative curricula--instead of pushing all students into college prep.]

Published in Tacoma News Tribune
Dirk Klover

To the editor

The high school dropout rate in our state (TNT, 12-7) will continue to increase until legislators, the governor and voters make public education a priority. The handwriting is on the wall for the class of 2008, when passing the WASL is a graduation requirement. We will look back to 2003 at a 67 percent graduation rate and think it was pretty good.

What's wrong with public education? As a high school teacher of 31 years, let me tell you. Since the mid-1980s, when we were a "Nation at Risk," there has been a continual shift towards academics. Vocational classes and programs for non-college-bound kids began to be replaced with more and more college prep courses.

Kids who are not successful get to take more of the same in remedial courses. Now schools are preparing for the WASL with more academics and remediation. You would think decision makers would have learned that lesson.

Public schools must deal with the huge influx of non-English-speaking students with limited resources. Classrooms are full of kids with social, economic and emotional problems, and schools don't have the resources to help.

The answer isn't always more money, but it is a start. We need to recognize that not all students need a college degree to be contributing members of society. We need alternative schools for students who can't handle the traditional school environment. We need parents who are supportive of the classroom teacher. Finally, we need lawmakers who are more interested in public education than they are in re-election.

Dirk Klover

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