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Mixed city report card: An 'A' and an 'incomplete'

From the weekend news, give Manchester's School Department one 'A'' and one 'incomplete.''

'A' is for a plan to transform Manchester's School of Technology into a richer, more intense technical education program. Exactly what the school may become remains to be seen, but it is encouraging that officials say it won't be an alternative school where non-mainstream learners are collectively dumped.

A curriculum that includes technical training in a host of fields as well as the basics needed by any high school student was unveiled last Friday. There was much talk, and many questions, concerning 'portability' of class credits and the ability to take advanced placement classes, should a student decide that a technical field is not the right fit.

MST would become a full four-year (or even five) standalone school, with Mayor Ted Gatsas expressing the hope that it might include a year-round educational path.

The devil is in the details, including funding and contract issues with teachers. But Superintendent Thomas Brennan and MST Principal Karen White seem determined.

We are being easy with the 'incomplete' grade for Manchester on our other education story over the weekend.

It dealt with why Manchester fares so poorly on New England school tests.

One proferred reason - a larger immigrant population - may have some validity, although Nashua, with its own sizeable number of immigrants, fares much better, especially in the lower grades.

But Manchester officials also claimed their students know the NECAP tests don't 'count' and therefore they don't apply themselves.

Well, unless Manchester students are somehow the only ones in the state who know this, that is just a cop out. It is also misleading, as noted by another educator who said the test results do appear on student transcripts and can thus affect advancement to college or the military.

If the tests don't count, then Manchester should do what others have done and make them count. Goffstown, for example, will allow students scoring at a 'proficient' level to skip final exams.

Manchester does have its own set of problems. But to be below the state average by double-digit margins should not be tolerated by parents, taxpayers, or educators.

Eric Church
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