My turn: Don't let misconceptions hurt students

Posted: Thursday, November 22, 2007

I am a Juneau-Douglas High School student who focuses on my academics and achievements while also taking part in my Native heritage through song, dance and cultural events. I attempt a balancing act with a "normal" social life outside of such. While I contemplate which university or universities to attend and what career to move on to after that, I work as best as I can to achieve such goals as I set.

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I could not even dream my dreams of college if I had not joined the Early Scholars Program (now known as the Early Scholars Academy). My commitment to work toward college and eventually a career has helped to motivate me to move forward in my academics. This academy has pushed me forward beyond what I could ever do on my own. It has been invaluable to my life. And if it hadn't been for Early Scholars, I would be part of the terrifyingly high dropout rate. I'm sorry that I have to disagree so strongly with Jean Mischel and Paul Skan (in the Juneau Empire on Nov. 12), but the fact is, this "solid academic foundation" only spawns a-well-foundation, a limited foundation offered to a small part of the student body in a method designed for only one type of student.

To state, as Mischel and Skan do, that Yaakoosge Daakahidi, C.H.O.I.C.E. and Early Scholars Academy are at all remedial or a group of unmotivated or non-achieving people is a clear and definite statement of ignorance based on misconceptions, and such harsh, uneducated stereotypes and generalities have a shaky foundation where they have one at all. In fact, several people I know in Early Scholars are high achievers, advanced placement or ready to graduate and move on to college.

Another aspect of the whole mess is that many dropouts suffer conditional, environmental, and social problems. Some of these issues may be addressed in academies and smaller learning communities such as the ones proposed. In fact, many colleges across the country have adopted the idea of learning communities to better meet the learning needs of all students.

Moving students or teachers is already a reality in Juneau on a small scale. Mass transit of students or teachers is not financially irresponsible if it provides students with a better learning community. Contrary to the notion provided by Mischel and Skan, this may benefit both schools and their students by providing a full complement of teachers and classes, as opposed to a system of one school being solely academies and one school standard, as was the idea before busing students or teachers was considered. The problem is that there are only three art teachers, only one teacher for most world languages, and a few assorted teachers that specialize in a subject. Students who want to have a good foundation should be able to take their art class and their language class, whether it is at one school or the other.

I am sure that the Juneau School District is doing all that it can to ensure the best learning community for all students, advanced placement, remedial or otherwise. The notion that the district is destroying our classes and schools is completely ludicrous. I won't glorify the programs or sugarcoat the truth, but as with any new system, with every new change, it won't be perfect at the start. This will be a difficult transition for everyone. However, we will rise above this difficulty; we will change for the better. We all just need to do our part and stop complaining and get to work.

• Leon Andree is a Juneau-Douglas High School junior, Early Scholars Academy member and Children of All Nations dancer.



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