Most of the state’s schools, in our view, do a workmanlike job educating the next generation of Alabamians. We admire the talented educators who dedicate their lives to the state’s children. But Alabama’s schools are chronically under-funded and have too few legislators willing to do what it takes to turn a statewide weakness into a sign of strength. They could be much more than what they are.
Enter Cynthia McCarty. She’s a professor at Jacksonville State who’s decided to run as a Republican for the District 6 seat on the Alabama State Board of Education. That district includes Calhoun County.
From her place in higher education, McCarty offered her view on Alabama students earlier this week to The Star’s Tim Lockette. What she said was amazingly — here’s that word again — blunt:
Some JSU freshmen are “ready for Harvard,” she said, while others must take remedial classes before they’re ready for college coursework.
A few instant thoughts:
• JSU is hardly the only university in Alabama at which some incoming freshmen need remedial work.
• McCarty the candidate shouldn’t be criticized for commenting so honestly about the university that’s employed her for the last 23 years.
Comments such as these are preferable over the head-in-the-sand belief that Alabama’s schools, by and large, are on par with the nation’s best. Success stories in Alabama education exist — initiatives in reading, math and science; distance-learning; pre-K — but overall, the state’s test scores and national rankings leave much to be desired.
We’ll repeat: They could be much more than what they are.
McCarty’s point is invaluable. She’s not a spokeswoman for the state board, the Alabama Education Association or a particular school system. She’s not a Montgomery lobbyist or a hired consultant. As a college professor for more than two decades, she’s wholly believable when she says Alabama’s schools are turning out graduates who aren’t ready for college coursework.
Logic helps us follow this unattractive scenario. Schools that turn out graduates unprepared for college do the state a disservice; they fail a vital mission. In turn, some of those high school graduates may not persevere long enough to earn their college degree. For them, their Alabama diplomas didn’t give them the academic skills needed to reach their potential. And study after study shows the higher long-term earnings of college graduates.
Calhoun County could be the Petri dish for this experiment in improving education. Schools must not only graduate more students, but they must graduate more students capable of surviving the rigors of college work. They payoff for those who succeed, and for the state at large, is immense.