School grades help measure success

Published 10:19 pm Sunday, January 7, 2024

An Editorial Opinion The Lowndes Signal

The Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) released its annual Alabama State Report Card on Dec. 14. The report, a measure of the successes and failures of Alabama public schools, issued grades to individual schools across the state, and to the state system as a whole, defining which schools were doing well and were improvement was needed.

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Overall, Alabama’s statewide school system received a B with a score of 83 for the 2022-2023 school year. The grade, an indicator of academic achievement and attendance, included results for 729,789 students in 1,363 within the state’s 149 school systems.

The statewide rating, while remaining the same as that for the 2021-2022 term, did show light improvement in academic achievement, academic growth, progress in English language proficiency and college and career readiness. However the report also revealed a decline in graduation rates and an increase in chronic absenteeism.

Students receive grades in school with the overarching goal of measuring what they have learned and how ready they are to move forward, to another grade and ultimately to their next steps after graduation. The state’s accountability process in issuing grades to systems and individual schools, works toward the same goal by indicating how well school systems are doing in educating our students.

Often called the failing school list, the report is sometimes viewed as a means of identifying schools that are falling down on their job. Since the report was issued, parents in Butler, Lowndes and Crenshaw counties have taken to social media to praise the schools doing well and criticize the staff and faculty for the systems with schools receiving grades of C or lower.

Our staff has talked with school system leaders to find out what is the secret of their success or to determine what measures are being taken to improve lower scores.

It’s important for communities to remember that the success or failure of our schools rests on our shoulders, not just those of superintendents, principals and teachers.

We must not “throw the baby out with the bath water.” A pastor once said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership,” and while this mantra  is true, we also know that schools and school systems will not thrive without the support of communities, not just parents and students, but the extended school community and family.

As a community, each of us can volunteer to help where we can. I can volunteer to mentor a youth. You can be a reading tutor by simply volunteering to listen to a child read. We can show up for cleanup work days, PTO meetings, sporting events and fundraisers. 

We can attend school board meetings and even run for a school board position. We can volunteer as an assistant coach or club sponsor.

Together we can help students to succeed in school by supporting school efforts and encouraging faculty and staff.

The ALSDE report is available at www.reportcard.alsde.edu/SelectSchool. As we review report data, let us all consider what part we must play in improving the results.