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Edwina Left Behind

Edwina Left Behind

The woman from the state education department had come to show us "the data." She stood in an auditorium, in front of Ketchikan school district's some 300 teachers and staff and began a choppy Powerpoint presentation describing the standards on how students should soon be judged.

The official, dressed in a black blouse and black sport jacket, called herself a "recovering" math and middle school teacher.

During her presentation, which I'd seen before, we were quizzed on the meaning of acronyms and asked multiple-choice questions about No Child Left Behind. Judging from comments and muffled heckling behind me, I was not the only teacher who considered the education department's presentation demeaning.

As I listened, I reflected on Edwina, a student in the 12th-grade language arts class I taught last year in the remote Cu'pik Eskimo village of Chevak. Chevak School is the dominant feature in the rural, western Alaska village. Just over 300 students shuffle from small, modular homes to the K-12 school, leaning into the wind most of the year to get there, crossing swells of snow drifts in the winter.

Edwina was tough. She had a round face, always wore the same sweatshirt and oval glasses, and maneuvered through two communities rife with drugs and alcohol like a running back moving past hapless opponents.

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