“Failing” isn’t fair label for our schools

Published 8:40 pm Monday, January 16, 2017

The Alabama State Department of Education released its list of failing schools last Thursday and four local schools were included.

R.B. Hudson Middle School and Selma High School from Selma City Schools and Southside High School and Keith High School from the Dallas County School System were all deemed as failing.

The state department defines “failing” schools as those that score in the bottom 6 percent of the 2014-2015 ACT Apsire standardized reading and math test.

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This is all a part of the controversial Alabama Accountability Act, which allows children zoned for a failing public school to pay for private school tuition or fees to go to a non-failing public school.

It’s disappointing that schools in our area have been placed on this list, and it’s a reminder that there’s still progress to be made. However, we feel like “failing” is an unfair label that doesn’t detail the work teachers and administrators are doing within our school systems.

It’s important to note that even if every school in the state scored highly in reading and math, the bottom 6 percent of schools would still be deemed failing and would be placed on a failing school list.

The list also doesn’t provide any details, as to whether schools are making progress or lost ground from year to year.

We don’t think that’s a good way of labeling our schools. There’s got to be a better and fairer way to disclose struggling schools without holding them all to the same bottom 6 percent standard from year to year.

Why is the standard 6 percent anyways? Why aren’t failing schools the bottom 3 percent or 10 percent? Wouldn’t a specific score — not an arbitrary percentage — be a better standard?

With that said, administrators within both local schools systems understand the challenges they face and are working toward getting all of our schools off of this list.

Unfair label or not, it’s there and both Dallas County Superintendent Hattie Shelton and Selma Superintendent Angela Mangum have already launched plans to improve in reading and math next year.

Selma has launched new classes in both subjects and just held a community initiative asking parents to get more involved. Shelton had a meeting with all of the school system’s principals last week to start formulating ways to improve those scores.