EDITORíS DESK: Are we learning yet?

       The schools are trying. I'm no education specialist, just somebody who stops in at all the elementaries pretty much on a weekly basis, getting brief snapshots of the public education world. Even if I spent more time, an hour here or there observing classrooms, I doubt it would be enough to determine with perfect clarity whether or not the environment is right or not right for learning. But what I do see in my visits is staff working and kids being treated with respect and parents being welcomed. And when I talk to principals, there is an undeniable sense of caring, untainted by ego, as they delve into a mystery they can only hope to partially solve - which is, what does it take to get students on track when so many of them were already behind (never held a book in their hands) before they even started kindergarten?
       Title 1 is definitely part of that mystery. If you're at all like me, your eyebrows lift at the monetary figures, which show that District 11 this year received nearly five and a half million dollars for its Title 1 schools, with nearly a million of that going to just four on the Westside. Is this taxpayer expense worth it? True, both Bristol and West, which have been receiving such federal aid for a few years now, have shown some gains, but even the most impartial observer would have to concede that they're hardly dramatic enough to organize a ticker-tape parade. And in recent years this money source seems to be drying up - an evident offshoot of our nation's diminishing wealth (grr) - while ever-more schools emerge as poor enough to qualify for Title 1 aid and thus slice an ever-smaller funding pie into increasingly narrower pieces.
       Our article this issue explores, near the end, the odd sociological framework that to qualify for the resources necessary to teach kids how to be successful, Title 1 schools essentially need their parents to be unsuccessful. As I said, I'm hardly an expert, and I know the Westside schools are working hard in a system they didn't create, but doesn't it seem as though there should be a better way?

- K.J.