“Failing” list unfair to some schools

It is difficult to ascertain over the last week exactly what is more infuriating. The vast majority of people associated with education are irate about the passage of House Bill 84, the suddenly-revamped education legislation that would pay for students in “failing” public schools to go to “non-failing” public or private schools.

Most politicians and political analysts with no tie to the Republican party are irate at the clandestine way in which the bill was passed.

And then there are those schools who appear on a list of 202 potentially “failing” institutions circulated by Senate Republicans last week. The list, which was published on al.com, contained every public school in Marengo County outside of Demopolis.

That fact is nothing short of stunning. There are schools in Marengo County that have had their struggles with school improvement and Adequate Yearly Progress. But it is utterly ridiculous to think that every public institution in the Marengo County and Linden City systems is failing.

Marengo County Schools Superintendent Luke Hallmark had the right idea Wednesday when he advised caution in regards to determining exactly what a failing school is.

Take Sweet Water for example.

The Sweet Water graduation rate is routinely above 90 percent. The school boasts an impressive array of academic and extracurricular offerings. It continually posts stellar test scores. All of this goes without acknowledging programs such as the school’s robotics team that annually proves competitive against larger, more affluent institutions such as Davidson High and others.

And Sweet Water is not the only institution that should feel falsely accused of being a “failing school.” According to the latest round of AYP results, the only institution in the Marengo County system that missed 100 percent of its goals was Marengo High. The other two local schools appearing on the list of those that missed AYP are Linden High School and Demopolis High School. The latter of that pair was not identified as a potentially failing school by Senate Republicans.

The Alabama State Department of Education website also lists that the only Marengo schools in school improvement are Marengo High, John Essex, Linden Elementary and Demopolis High School.

The likes of Sweet Water and A.L. Johnson appear nowhere on either of those lists. So, it is understandable that SWHS principal Stan Stokley would be “mad” as he was characterized in a recent piece on al.com about Sweet Water’s status on the list of potentially “failing” schools.

But, in the midst of all of this, it is important to remember that the list as it was released is merely conjecture. It is the best guess of a handful of politicians based on their understanding of education data.

However, the truth is simply this. If those politicians understood the first thing about education – data or otherwise – HB84 never would have gotten off the ground. The latest controversial piece of education legislation that now faces our state is simply another example of people who know nothing about education refusing to listen to those who do.

So, as you read over the list of potentially “failing” schools and the legislation to which it is tied, consider the source.