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A letter to Santa from 'K-12 California'

Dear Santa,

My name is K-12 California.

I know it's a funny name, not at all like those of other kids who live in the state that has more people than all other states in our country. But I'm not like other kids. In fact, I'm not just one kid. I am the millions and millions of school kids, between 5 and 18 years old, who are attending kindergarten through 12th grade public schools in California this year.

I have a lot to ask you for this Christmas season; things other kids

usually don't ask you for, but stuff that I really need. I put together

this list from a survey of 3,000 teachers and students in San Diego who said what they wanted most in their schools.

And so, I'm hoping you can bring me most, if not all, the 12 most important things our schools and I need so that I can get the education my parents, teachers, businesses and other adults say we need if we are to be successful when we become adults.

Here's my wish list:

1. I don't want to be treated as just a "kid" or second-class citizen when I am at school. I'd like counselors who actually know me and know about the colleges I might be interested in and for which I am suited. I'd like to see my counselors for positive reasons, not just when I am in trouble.

2. I'd like teachers who know about computers and other technology used in teaching and learning. I am tired of knowing more about this than my teachers and having to teach them about technology. They are there to teach me to explore how technology can expand learning.

3. I'm really nervous over all the talk about having to make drastic

budget cuts in education. I cannot imagine what cutting $1. 9 billion in state monies for education will do to our schools. My wish is that those budget cuts will not have to be made after all. I need all the help there is to give me the education I need to be a successful adult. How can today's adults fail to prepare tomorrow's adults for the future?

4. I'd like to be able to go to a school board meeting or watch it on TV without seeing adults act like spoiled kids. Watching a bunch of school board members, administrators, and parents yell at and call each other bad names is not teaching me how to get along and work together with other people. They all say they are doing what they are doing "for our children." My wish is that they settle down and act like reasonable people and make the decisions necessary to improve our schools and education.

5. This is a really big wish -- not to have too many so-called standardized tests. I know we have to have these kinds of tests to show how our schools are doing, but the tests should cover the subjects that I am being taught in school. I've been reading about the new CAT-6 test that is supposed to do that. Another thing, Santa: I'd like to not have my school's scores printed in the newspaper and have such a big deal made about the lowest

scores. It doesn't encourage me to try to do better; it just encourages me to do the opposite.

6. Here's another really big wish -- to have a school and classrooms that are not run down and smelly. I'd like to be proud of the school I attend, but it's hard when it looks like it's falling apart.

7. Speaking of that reminds me of equipment and programs. I'd like my school to have the equipment and programs to allow me to pursue my interests in science, drama, athletics, and vocational training. My parents had all this when they went to school back in the Stone Age. Why can't I?

8. I like to read more than the stuff I read in class, but you'd think

that was against the law in my school where we don't have a real librarian who can encourage us to explore all sorts of subjects when we're not in our classroom. Please, Santa, send me a school librarian who loves to turn kids onto reading and the adventures of learning.

9. I like to learn. But that's not considered "cool" at my school. As a

result, our teachers have to "dumb down" the topics they teach for the lowest-performing kids which is really boring for the rest of us. I'd like to make being smart and getting good grades a "cool" thing at my school.

10. I am working really hard to get through all the grades leading up to graduating from high school. I'd like to have my high school diploma and all the education leading up to mean that I really accomplished something more than just "sticking it out" for all those years.

11. Another thing I really want is to feel safe at school. I need to be

protected from bullying, prejudice, gangs, social cliques, and all the

others who really don't want to be where learning is taking place.

12. The last thing on my list this year is to have teachers who are

excited about teaching, not just adults in a classroom who are afraid of the administration and marking time waiting to retire. Really good teachers know how to wake up and stimulate kids to learn and pursue goals that were thought to be impossible. Please revitalize our teachers and give them the tools and support to make my classroom an awesome learning environment.

It's a long list, I know, but these are the things that I really need. And you know what? I think everybody in California and our country needs these as well.

Including you, Santa.

Hovenic, Ed. D. , is president and chief executive officer of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation and executive director of the Foundation's Business Roundtable for Education. E-mail her at ginger. hovenic@sddt. com.

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