By David Williams
Report cards recently were given to Alabama public schools regarding each school’s performance. Many of the scores caused concern among the vested interest groups. Myself and other educators must sit back and listen to the armchair quarterbacks tell us who should be fired and why.
I marvel that how someone, without thoroughly researching the issue, can take data and form a conclusion and call for heads to roll. These individuals often have done little or nothing to help fix the problems that they claim to be so passionate about.
When I was a college football player, my best friend decided to give it a try. He had been a gifted athlete, but at some point, his parents had decided that that he no longer could play football. So just like that, he stopped playing. That was in middle school, and he did not return to active participation in the sport until he followed me to college.
My friend walked on the team, and in time his natural God-given abilities one again began to manifest. That fall, he received the Strong Man award. I was sort of mad about that. I couldn’t understand how or why he made such great gains while I struggled to make progress in the weight room.
I later realized that the reason my friend did so well and made such great gains was because he was starting from ground zero. All my life, I had been lifting and training, whereas he had not. Even though the genetic foundation was there, his body had been dormant. Once my friend got into the weight room, his body responded likewise. His increases were greater because of this fact. I was improving, but I was measuring and comparing myself to him. It wasn’t a fair thing to do for either of us.
The same can be said for people who go from being a couch potato to an active person. They will see weight loss, while a perpetually active person will struggle to see progress because his body is used to the workouts.
I said all of the above to say this – that before the open mic and armchair quarterbacks call for heads to roll, they should research the data and view the report card grades in the proper context. It isn’t just performance; growth should also be taken into consideration. For example, if a school has a D report card but prior to that D a particular school was on the state’s watch list, then one can rightly assume that progress is being made. The same method of evaluation must be used for other schools. What were their scores prior to the current report card, and what does the growth data indicate? In many cases, you’ll find – much like me and my college teammate – that those schools are working hard to maintain, because it is difficult to move from 90 to 93.
Instead of criticizing without context, perhaps they should look at the growth data and what the better performing schools are doing differently. Perhaps they should consider the intangibles that help students perform better, intangibles that are often out of the educator’s control. No mention is given to social-economic status and its impact on education. No mention is given to the demographics of each school or how that data impacts the school’s scores.
In addition, the talking heads often fail to compare and contrast the impact of positive parental involvement. If such research is done, you’ll find that the students in the better performing schools have parents who are engaged and involved. They are proponents of prevention and intervention, whereas the struggling schools’ parents are reactive instead of proactive.
We are in this together. In the words of James Madison, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
Contact David Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.