By Shannon Hunter
The Alabama State Department of Education has released the 2019 list of “Failing” schools. These are the schools that fell in the bottom 6% of Alabama schools in the students’ proficiency in Reading and Math. Two of the 76 schools on the list are in Chambers County, both of them in LaFayette. J. P. Powell Middle School and LaFayette High School appear on this list of schools whose students perform far below the standards for their grade.
The predictable reaction from Kelli Hodge, Superintendent of the Chambers County Public Schools was to criticize the list, to call attention to the School Report Cards for the two schools where each earned a “D”, and to point out the increased graduation rate of LaFayette High School. In past years, Dr. Hodge has criticized the Report Card as not being a good representation of student performance.
The AAA (Alabama Accountability Act) provides that schools be ranked according to their students’ results on standardized tests covering Reading and Math proficiency, and that those schools that are in the bottom 6% in the ranking be designated as “Failing”. Parents are to be notified by the School District, and have the opportunity to transfer their children to non-Failing schools. The purpose of this legislation is to allow youngsters to escape from schools where students don’t receive a good foundation in basic Reading and Math, schools such as J. P. Powell and LaFayette High School. What’s wrong with that? Unfortunately, the other schools in the District are not much better.
The real question is why are our Middle School and High School not getting the job done? The usual excuse put forward by teachers is that their students were not properly prepared in earlier grades, but that just leads to another question: How do students advance to a grade level for which the schools have not prepared them? The simple answer is that to hold them back would make the parents mad and hurt the graduation rate on the School Report Card.
A graph of the results of the test of Reading skills shows that the students’ performance relative to standards gets worse as students advance through the schools in Alabama, Chambers County and LaFayette. More information at https://www.lafayetteforcitizens.org/chambers-county-schools.html
We should all be alarmed that, from the 8th. grade to the 10th., less than 20% of LaFayette students read at grade level! And the Math results are worse, with 20% below standards beginning with the 4th. grade! These results in Reading and Math should be the starting point for questions and discussion. How do we expect the graduates of such institutions to succeed when they are so deficient in two such fundamental skills? How can they spend year after year in school, advancing from grade to grade without being able to read well? How will they be able to get a decent job or acquire further education? Isn’t this preparation what schools are for?
Let’s not allow ourselves to be distracted. Our schools are failing, and that means that they are failing to teach the students essential basic skills. Dr. Hodge, the administrators and the faculty are not getting the job done.
To contact your representative on the School Board, go to http://www.chambersk12.org/school-board-resource-center-f1758ede and click on the name of the School Board Member for your District.