Original URL: http://www.arizonarepublic.com/arizona/articles/0926phxstudents26.html

Students, key educator share ideas

By Sara Thorson
The Arizona Republic
Sept. 26, 2002 12:09 AM

CENTRAL PHOENIX - Two groups of Valley students shared thoughts and ideas on education Wednesday with an interested - and important - listener.

U.S. Undersecretary of Education Eugene Hickok talked with the students about Arizona's dropout rate, apathetic parents, bilingual education and what makes students succeed.

In town to address the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Hickok participated in a round-table discussion with middle school and high school students at the Phoenix Hyatt Regency. Hickok wanted to know what made
them successful.

While charter students credited their success to small classrooms, Madison Meadows eighth-grader Catherine Tamsky said she does well at a public school.

"I don't need teachers to push me; I push myself," she said.

Sam Feldman, a North High junior, told Hickok that public schools offer academic programs such as the International Baccalaureate that challenge youngsters.

Chauncy Curtis, South Mountain senior, believes more funding should go to classrooms. Qualified teachers equal better instruction, he told Hickok.

Earlier in the day, Hickok met with about 70 students from South Mountain Community College's Dynamic Learning Program. The program places first- and second-year SMCC students majoring in education in internships and core courses before they transfer to Arizona State University's College of Education.

Hickok advised students that "it's not easy to do a good job in the classroom, but it is critical," as he challenged them to turn around Arizona's dropout rate.

"It's a serious challenge in Arizona. In the early years, you have to help a young person recognize the excitement and potential they possess. That's very tough, especially in our urban centers where these kids go home to anything but support."

Students asked Hickok how to deal with apathetic parents.

"I think it's a tragedy," he said. "We know that a parent can make a huge difference, but if they aren't involved, we can't give up on the child."

On bilingual education, now curtailed in Arizona, Hickok said the result was more important than whether a child received bilingual or English-immersion instruction.

"I don't really have a dog in that fight," he said. "I care that, in the end, students acquire the English language and be proficient as soon as possible."

Students also had fun.

"Is your great-uncle really Wild Bill Hickok?" asked Danielle Stansell, a first-year secondary education student.

A distant uncle, Hickok said.

Reporter Betty Reid contributed to this article.


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