Annual progress worth cheering
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Aug 05, 2009 | 1188 views |  1 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The federal No Child Left Behind law is easy to dislike. It's a flawed piece of legislation with too little emphasis on the bedrock fundamentals of learning and too much dedication to standardized tests.

While the intent is noble — ensuring that all U.S. public school students are at grade level in math and reading by 2014 — its mechanics are imperfect. Yet, it is the method by which schools are judged. We are stuck with its inherent limitations and strict guidelines.

Such criticism for the law doesn't remove the pride from Monday's release of this year's No Child Left Behind reports. Call it joy, muted: All but three area schools met the state's education standards, and two of the three that fell short — Lineville High and Woodland High — did so by only one missed goal.

From Oxford to Piedmont, from Ohatchee to White Plains and many points nearby, area schools are meeting No Child Left Behind standards. Those schools should be commended.

Today, however, focus on this year's annual yearly progress reports should rest squarely on Anniston City Schools, a system whose success is vital to across-the-board interests not only of the city but of Calhoun County, as well.

Sadly, Anniston High failed to make annual yearly progress for the fourth year in a row. Superintendent Joan Frazier may have told The Star that "(it's) not a lot of surprise," but it is a supreme disappointment, nonetheless. Anniston High met nine goals, but fell short in key areas such as graduation rates and overall reading scores.

Still, this is not the time to deliver a hammer's blow of censure. That would be too easy, too reactionary, too destructive.

Instead, let us at least be thankful that Frazier plans to implement a list of needed alterations for the coming academic year. Having a stricter attendance policy is but one of several needed steps that must take place on Woodstock Avenue. If systematic changes are needed, then Frazier should be expected to make them, and soon.

That said, the guarded optimism this page feels for the future of Anniston City Schools comes in large part to what is seen elsewhere in the system. All of the city's elementary schools met their AYP goals. So, too, did Anniston Middle School, which has reached its AYP goal for two years in a row and no longer retains the state's "school improvement" status. That may be the headline of the day, if not the week.

Criticism of Anniston City Schools comes in many shapes, many forms. Often it's warranted. Getting results in a system where a preponderance of students is on free-and-reduced lunch programs — a statistical indicator of classroom performance — requires tough decisions and strong leadership.

If anything, this year's AYP results should represent what's possible for Anniston's schools. Failure is not an option. Annistonians must hold their schools to high expectations. In time, with continual improvement, with sweat, strain and teamwork, Anniston's schools — the high school included — can be all that the city requires.

Bemoan their weaknesses, yes, but cheer their successes, as well.
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