Golden School days?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 6, 2006

My, how these hot summer days fly by, and now – here in early August – it’s time to head to the classrooms again. The good news is, hopefully, today’s schools are all air-conditioned, the teachers are motivated to teach, and the pupils are excited about seeing their school buddies again. My greatest hope is that the students also thirst for more knowledge about “readin’, riting’ and rithmatic’,” etc. – as the song goes.

I still have vivid memories of starting back to school in early September, getting out in late May and having three glorious months of summer vacation. School schedules are drastically different these days – for whatever reason – perhaps the holidays are longer, and there are more teachers’ meetings.

The bad news about public education is that Alabama is near the bottom in graduation rates. A recent Associated Press release revealed that a 2002-03 study by “The Education Week” publication showed that our state on a national basis ranked 43rd (tied with Delaware. Only South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida and Georgia ranked lower in the South.

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Nationwide, the average graduation rate was 69.7 percent.

Alabama graduated high school seniors at a rate of only 60.7 percent – with 50 percent of black students receiving diplomas – and Hispanics being the lowest group of graduates at 44.5 percent.

Alabama came in below national levels in all categories!

The graduation report was part of a four-year study by nonprofit “Editorial Projects in Education Research Center,” Bethesda, Md.

Now for some thrilling news: In a personal visit with Selma’s Superintendent of City Schools, Dr. James Carter, I was advised that Selma High School graduated an outstanding 95 percent of its class of 2006 seniors.

Also, Dr. Carter stated that the Selma High dropout rate had fallen to less than 6 percent and that a high percentage of this year’s graduates would be enrolling in two year and four year institutions of higher learning this coming fall.

When compared to our state’s graduation rate of just over 60 percent, Selma High’s performance was better by an almost unbelievable 35 percent!

Congratulations go out to the students, teachers and administrators for an outstanding achievement! The many, many poor-performing public schools in our state need to discover Dr. Carter’s “secret.”

In the private school arena, Selma’s Morgan Academy sets the standard each year

for excellence in academics, athletic programs and graduation rates.

It is my understanding that every member of Morgan’s 2006 graduation class will continue his/her education in colleges and/or universities later this year.

I extend my highest compliments to headmaster Dr. DeBuzna, the teachers and students for their tremendous accomplishments in private school education over the past many, many years!

Now, let’s hark back to the public school difficulties in Alabama and the other states in our great Republic that have underperformed in terms of producing high school graduates. My question is: what’s the damn problem?

Well, like Bill Cosby says (“Sociology 101”), “Our young people must learn: (No. 1) Graduate from High School, (No. 2) Get a Job, (No. 3) Don’t Have Babies Unless You Are Married, (No. 4) Stay Out Of Jail.” Then, one has a chance to become a productive, tax-paying citizen in our wonderful United States of America – “Home of the Free.”

Of course, Mr. Cosby is right on the money with his “rules for success” – for the underprivileged – but he is almost a lone voice among the national black leadership. Black syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell, one of the best writers (print media) in the country, supports Cosby, as does Walter Williams, a black college professor and outstanding columnist.

I have challenged Selma’s black leaders (Perkins, Sanders, Chestnut and Carter) to invite Bill Cosby to come to Selma for a Town Meeting. My suggestion, thus far, has been ignored.

Personally, I see the Teachers’ Unions as a key deterrent to the best-possible public education.

When it’s almost impossible to fire a bad teacher, and the Union/ACLU prohibits corporal punishment, poor teachers and bad behavior interfere with students receiving a quality education.

Again, WAY TO GO, Morgan Academy and Selma High!!!

BYRD LOOPER is a regular columnist for The Times-Journal.