Saturday, February 11, 2012

School Beat: When Otha Thornton Speaks, We Should All Listen

National PTA President Otha Thornton

Saturday, Feb.11, 2012
Augusta, GA

When Otha Thornton speaks, I listen. I listen not only because Thornton is a retired United States Army Intelligence officer, but also because he is the President-elect of the National Parent-Teachers Association. When he says that only 6% of our state's 9th graders will finish college or technical school within four years of their enrollments there, I listen and am shocked. Even more shocking, is Thornton's assertion that only 54% of our 9th graders will finish high school within four years.

But wait a minute. We read reports about the RCSS high school graduation rate's being in the upper 70% range. Who are we to believe- a man who is a disinterested advocate for our kids, or educrats with a keen interest in protecting their own turf?

Each of us can make up our own minds about that question. But there is a question about whose answer there should be no discordance: Should any RCSS educrat expect kudos because the school system graduates 79% of its entering ninth graders? This answer should be unanimously negative- no matter what the RCBOE attorney might want us to believe. Assuming that the RC school system graduates 80% of it's entering high school freshman, 20% of these freshmen would have left the system without the academic skills they'll need to succeed. These twenty percent also wouldn't have the high school diploma, which is essential to document those skills. What about these kids? What kinds of lives will they live? How many RCSS educrats really care what happens to these dropouts? Or do many educrats and other RC residents consider these primarily-poor and/or -minority kids expendable? Think about it.

And speaking of undeserved kudos, how about the kudos being paid to the several RCSS elementary and middle schools which made AYP based upon their CRCT results? As founder of Georgians for Education Excellence, LLC, a non-profit, Georgia-chartered advocacy group, I'm an avid supporter of educational excellence wherever I find it. Davidson, Johnson, Walker, Freedom Park, Warren Road, Lake Forrest Hills and Goshen are several RCSS schools which deserve accolades for the academic achievement of their students. Unfortunately, these seven schools constitute only 14% of the elementary and middle schools in the RCSS. What about the academic achievement of the kids in the remaining 86% of RC public elementary and middle schools? In a word: Abysmal.

Don't believe me? Would you believe data extracted from, the official RCSS website? Thirty-five(35) of the RCSS's thirty-seven(37) elementary schools in 2009 housed students whose fifth graders' percentile rankings in Reading Comprehension were lower- much lower- than those of these schools' first graders. This discrepancy in percentile rankings between first and fifth graders was part of a trend which was exhibited in the years 2005 through 2008. This discrepancy averaged about 13%-ile points over the 2005-08 period.

If that's not bad enough to excite your anger, just wait until you read about the discrepancy between RCSS first and eighth grade  Reading Comprehension percentile rankings. Percentile rankings in Reading Comprehension in RCSS were an average of twenty-three(23) percentile points lower for eighth graders than for first graders in the period 2005 through 2009, the latest year for which Iowa Test of Basic Skills(ITBS) data for the RCSS is available.

Now, as your eyes glaze over after an interlude with educationese, you must ask: What does all this educationese mean? It means that RCSS first graders'  Reading Comprehension skills compare more favorably with those of other first graders throughout our nation than RCSS eighth graders' skills compare with those of other American eight graders.  RCSS eighth graders' Reading Comprehension scores compare more unfavorably with other American eighth graders than do RCSS first graders and their national peers. RCSS eighth graders have lower average percentile scores than do RCSS first graders. It also means that the reading skills of RCSS students decline over time when compared to those of their peers throughout the U.S. Some particulars?
Please consider the following matrix.
                                                READING  COMPREHENSION (In %-iles)
READING Comprehension
Does any parent, grandparent or guardian of a RCSS elementary or middle school student find this inference reassuring? Are any RCSS taxpayers happy? Is any local economic development official pleased?
Come on, man.***

Craig Spinks

***Do you have a story idea, a tip, or would you like to write for City Stink? Then please contact us at:***
Share this on Facebook by clicking the icon below

No comments: