Friday, March 25, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Do not let our kids fail

About 45 percent of Arkansas’ elementary school pupils are failing, according to the state’s annual test, and the number is much worse in Pulaski County.

There’s plenty of blame to go around, but it starts with the state failing to let students know they are failing, flunking, flopping, floundering or flaming out.

Instead, they are told that they are “approaching standards” – well, that’s like saying, “When I pull out of my driveway, I’m approaching work.” True, but you’re still 25 miles and a McDonald’s stop away.

The state makes failing sound so sweet and innocent, like a flight attendant making the announcement, “We are approaching the runway.” Sounds so nonchalant, but that same attendant can come back on the speaker system a minute later and say, “We are now approaching a crash situation.”

Approaching or being close to, as the old saying goes, only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

And students who absolutely bomb the state test are tagged as “not meeting expectations yet.” That’s like saying a middle-aged, 5-foot-9- inch overweight guy has not yet met his expectations of playing in the NBA.

Students need to be told the truth, and there’s no yet about it.

And, if that’s not bad enough, the state says students “not meeting expectations yet” are at Level One.

Level 1? Isn’t that a good thing?

Chances are a Level 1 college team will win the NCAA championship. Are they flunkers, floppers, flounderers and failers?

In almost 90 percent of the things we do, being at Level 1 is a positive thing, something to be proud of and brag about. So, why does the state use it as a lower classification?

Aren’t Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and the likes Level 1 quarterbacks? Hard to believe quarterbacks with Super Bowl rings on their fingers “aren’t meeting expectations yet.”

A local news station ranks a perfect weather day as a Level 1 day. A Level 5, which the state ranks its top students, is a not-so-nice day, according to the weather forecast, and can be a day of rain, wind, ice, snow, hail and maybe even a tornado.

A bio-safety Level 1 is not a bad thing, but a good thing, meaning exposure to infectious agents that do not ordinarily cause human disease. See, it’s good, not bad.

Level 1 leaders, according to experts, appreciate the trust placed in them and the opportunity to take charge. They are willing to place others before themselves. They handle authority well. They know how to use the resources that were given to them for the good of the organization.

That doesn’t sound like someone flunking, failing, flopping, floundering or flaming out.

The word “level” can easily be exchanged for division, group, rank or class. That would give us Division 1, Rank One (first), Group 1, Class 1 (First Class). None of that sounds like flunking or failing.

So how do students know they are flunking, failing, flopping, floundering or flaming out unless they are told directly and succinctly?

Keep it simple: “Hey, kid, you are failing, get it in gear.” But, no, the state would rather skirt the issue, and the result is more and more students are failing on a regular basis.

Last year, the state test showed 45 percent of middle school students (grades 5-8) bombed the test, or as the state put it were either “approaching expectations or had not met them yet.”

The Pulaski County Special School District had about 55 percent at the bottom.

Someone should tell the state that it “hasn’t met expectations – yet.”

Or, better yet, “Hey, Arkansas, you are failing, flunking, flopping, floundering and flaming out. Get it in gear!”