Today’s news:

Public schools in the city need to overcome problems

TimesLedger Newspapers

As our public schools open, they again face the problems not faced by private and charter schools. Students are either excluded or put out when they cause trouble.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act has required that all students read at their grade level by 2014. Currently, about half of the states have opted out of the program and are supposed to be trying other techniques than those proposed by the federal government.

The city public schools decided three years ago to end social promotion. Only students reading at grade level would be promoted out of the sixth-grade. Those students who were left back were given a special program with the best teachers. Last spring, it was realized that many students had been left back two or three years and were still in the sixth-grade with 12-year-olds. Social promotion has just been reinstated for September 2012.

Our schools face many problems. Some children need special services due to mental or birth defects or psychological problems. While some of these children can be taught to function, some cannot pass the required tests. Some families are dysfunctional. Some parents are addicts.

While some children are resilient and can keep up with their schoolwork, not all can thrive in foster care, in a group home or while living in a homeless center. Some apartments are so bad that broken ceilings, mold, lack of heat, roaches and rats are a nighttime problem. Some youngsters are confronted with gangs pressuring them to join and offering then drugs and alcohol.

Some youngsters are traumatized when fellow teens are killed or disappear or are shot due to random gunfire. This is not a great introduction to school. Some youngsters carry weapons as part of gang activities.

There was recently a story that 33 weapons were confiscated last year from teens going to their high school. They kept the weapons out of the school, but it shows what kind of a neighborhood the teachers and supervisors are facing. The teaching staff and support people should be praised for going to work every day and trying to help the teenagers learn.

Some children are foreign born and may take years to become proficient in English, yet they are made to take the reading test when they start public school. This lowers the reading scores in these schools. The charter and private schools do not provide special English as a Second Language services for these students.

Some children get hold of prescription drugs. Some go to their grandparent’s apartments and steal medicine from them. There is often alcohol available in many homes. I have read stories which say that many youngsters are high on alcohol or pills every day while in school, so they are not learning. The sale of pills in schools may be hard to detect and, since it is not a violent crime, it continues.

This is the reality in many schools in urban and suburban areas. Some problems can be solved, but it takes school staff members who have the time to solve these problems one by one. Remember: Every time you read about street or school violence, the ability of our children to learn is affected.

GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK: There is a nonprofit called Field of Honor, which provides scholarships for the spouses and children of military members who have been killed or disabled in combat.

Money is raised through tournaments in golf courses across the country.

BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: The city Department of Education is changing some aspects of the special education program.

Some special needs children cannot take change. Some may be losing services, which is illegal. Watch for more stories where kindergarten or first-grade students have gone wild in a non-controlled setting and the police were called.

The city is trying to save money but hurting children.

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