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School’s goal to ready students for college

By: Jan Pinney, Roseville Joint Union High School District board member
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Every once in awhile a parent or teacher questions the Roseville Joint Union High School District’s goal to encourage every student to take college prep classes. “After all, we still need people to fix our cars and build our homes and put up our fences and wire our houses,” they say. True, yet when I was a boy I could change spark plugs and do other minor mechanical work on my old clunkers, although not very efficiently and always accompanied with bruised knuckles. Have you looked under the hood of a car today? Don’t our kids need algebra and geometry to work in almost any profession today, including those mentioned above? Don’t all of us need to know how to use computers and how to speak coherently and read instruction manuals and correspondence of various kinds and write responses? Don’t we all need to know history so we don’t repeat past mistakes and government so we make wise decisions about how we are governed? Don’t we also need to know geography so we don’t sound uneducated when we say we are going “up” to L.A.? Don’t you cringe when you watch Leno’s “Jay Walker” segments and wonder where the heck these people were educated? As a parent and grandparent, I view a college education today as equivalent to a high school education in my generation. My parents viewed their high school educations as equivalent to a sixth- to eighth-grade education in their generation. Would we say a sixth-grade education is adequate today? I hope not, but not too long ago we did and those who contend that some of our kids cannot complete the college prep sequence are selling our kids short. Famed educator Jaime Escalante, who was featured in the movie “Stand and Deliver,” was recently quoted offering the following advice to teenagers: “Set your goals and go for it. You’re going to have to go to college to be something. Otherwise, you’re going to be pumping gas all the time – and today, there’s no gas.” In support of my premise, I was privileged to read an address given by a graduate of the AVID program at Roseville High School, a program that helps kids focus on qualifying to attend college. The young lady came from a household of immigrant parents who did not complete high school, yet she was encouraged and challenged (and not “pigeonholed” because of her circumstances) and recently has been accepted by six colleges. She is experiencing the American Dream and it’s partly because her teachers and counselors believed in her and helped her believe in herself. As a school board member I believe the most important assets we have in our district are our kids and the committed and talented teachers and administrators who serve them. As educators and parents and the community at large, the most valuable thing we can give kids is hope. If we don’t give up on students or sort them by current abilities or lack of abilities, perhaps we can instill in them a hope for bettering themselves for the benefit of each one of them and of our community and country. College prep is really a minimum expectation we should have for our students. – Jan Pinney is a member of the Roseville Joint Union High School District’s board of trustrees.