Friday, May 13, 2016

EDITORIAL >> State flunks report cards

Do you know what the recent round of state report cards on schools showed? They showed that Arkansas should get an F – not education — but the state for ignorance.

Of the 1,058 public schools across Arkansas, the state-generated report card showed only 10 of those schools were A-quality schools. The state had twice as many F’s. So who suffers the most with this information out there among the public? We all do.

Everyone knows about reports cards and their meanings, so people looking to relocate — businesses and industries wanting to come to the state are all concerned about the quality of education, the education level of the workforce and where local schools are headed — will see a false picture of our students based on misleading state information.

According to the state, our schools are dumb and dumber. But don’t believe it.

Last year, there were more than 100 schools with A’s, and this year just 10. How can a multi-million business look at that and want to come here and invest millions? They won’t.

In giving out these report cards, the state is bypassing one of the top mantras in education: “grade students through many different means.” A good teacher and a good school, of which we have many, many more than the state thinks, give students a chance to show their braininess through written assignments, oral presentations, artistic means and even through performance. The state uses only the state-level test scores to determine if schools are good or not – and that’s not good.

Schools and their students shine bright in so many different ways. North Pulaski High School has a culinary program that is to die for, and the awards that those students have brought in might fill a showcase larger than one needed for sports awards.

Sylvan Hills Middle School has consistently been a winner in the Odyssey of the Mind contest. That contest focuses on teamwork, problem solving and creative thinking – something potential businesses are keener on than an annual state test. By the way, that team is heading to the national contest.

Students at Warren Dupree Elementary and Beebe High School always seem to be winners in the twice-annual Stock Market Game, showing that we have students that have a solid understanding of the stock market and the research skills and vision to make money. Again, more important than a standardized test score.

Let’s not forget Cabot High School, which received a B from the state with a score that puts it close to being a C school. It had 20 students selected for this summer’s Governor’s School, plus the school has 192 honor students and 41 high honor students who have been awarded $5 million in college scholarships. Does that sound like an almost C school?

In fact, according to U.S. News, 24 of our high schools ranked in the top 10 percent nationwide. Shouldn’t they all be A schools? But very few of them are, according to the state.

Perhaps Arkansas should trash the report cards, save the money it cost to produce and focus on a PR push about the innovation, creativity and tangible achievements of its young people. Doing that would grab the interest of every business and industry in the nation, as not only are we a natural state, we are a naturally smart state—unless you read those incredulous report cards.