From the Tacoma Tribune Newspaper
Tiny Lind offers a big lesson for the state in how to make education work
John Burbank, News Tribune columnist.
Lind is a little town a few miles south of Ritzville on the way to the Tri-Cities. Its population was right around 500 people in 1900, and today you will find just about the same number of people.
This is a conservative area of our state. Adams County, in which
situated, not only voted for Bush in the presidential election, but did so
in a landslide - 69 percent for Bush to 28 percent for Gore.
Initiative 695, which pretty much abolished the motor vehicle excise tax,
was passed with 57 percent of the vote in Adams County. More recently,
Initiative 747, limiting total property taxes, passed with 68 percent.
But Lind caught my eye for a different reason having to do with government. It has a great public school system that is setting an example for the rest of the state. The Lind School District enrolls 250 kids. Three quarters of the kids are white, and more than 20 percent are Hispanic. This being an agricultural area, it is no surprise that 24 percent of the kids are from migrant families. Poverty rates in the school district are high, and they have been increasing. The percentage of children eligible for free and reduced lunch has climbed from 55 percent in 1999 to 70 percent this year. This could be a recipe for a school district going downhill fast. But in Lind, just the opposite is true. Student achievement is far above the state average and is going up. Last year, fourth-grade students in Lind scored 77 percent on the reading portion of the WASL tests, 10 percentage points above the state average.
In math, they came in at 85 percent, over 40 percentage points higher than the state average. Even more intriguing is how Lind outscored significantly better-off communities. What are the ingredients for success? Community support is one. In the past two years, Lind put up two maintenance and operation levies, and both passed, with two out of three voters supporting them. The community decided to use its money from Initiative 728 (which 65 percent of Adams County voters supported) to fund full-day kindergarten and pre kindergarten. These programs are all about getting kids ready to learn. Both the kindergarten and preschool classes are taught by certificated teachers and include transportation, breakfast and lunch.
Class size is another ingredient. In the entire district, the largest class has just 24 students and the smallest has nine. With class sizes like these, teachers can challenge and push all the students. Leadership is another key ingredient. In Lind, the superintendent, the school board, and the teachers are all raising the bar for their students. The fourth-grade teacher takes her kids to math contests. She runs a Saturday workshop for parents, during which she explains the purpose of the WASL tests and ways parents can help their children at home.
The superintendent of the Lind Schools, Steve Dal Porto, has this to say:
"The local community preschool was reaching about half of the students, and we saw an opportunity to enlarge the program. We recognize that preschool and the primary grades provide the basic building blocks for everything else that will occur in a child's schooling.
"We could easily identify the entering kindergartners who had attended the community preschool and those children who did not. Their skills were so different that we actually had two groups in kindergarten. Our motivation for implementing the preschool is grounded in the simple belief that we know we can educate the children - the earlier the better."
Something good is going on in Lind. From its small junior-senior high school, 31 students signed up to run in the annual Bloomsday Run this past weekend. Out of a senior class of 22 students, more than half already have committed to going to a college or technical/vocational school. The citizens of Lind have voted with their pocketbooks for public education. The state, up until this year, added the funding to enable smaller classes and ready-to-learn programs for preschoolers. The superintendent, the school board and the teachers have figured out how to put the ingredients together. The schools work, and the students learn and thrive. This is a recipe for success that should serve as a model for the rest of Washington on both sides of the Cascades. And it is a strong argument against any state budget cuts that will unravel the great work taking place in even the smallest districts in our state.
Carol J. Kelly, Webmaster
Page created May 11, 2002