Editorial: Schools’ long row to hoe grows longer
Everyone knew turning around students’ low test scores in the Rowan-Salisbury Schools would take time. The system’s road to hoe seemed to grow longer this week, though, when the state released the latest school performance grades.
On the bright side, eight schools saw their cumulative school performance score go up a point or more. They were Shive, Granite Quarry, Isenberg, Morgan, Mount Ulla and North Rowan elementary schools; Rowan Early College; and West Rowan High.
Three remained steady: Enochville, Faith and Landis elementary schools.
Scores went down, unfortunately, at nearly two dozen schools — some rather significantly — and for 12 schools that meant a drop in the school’s letter grade.
School officials, teachers and administrators have to be disappointed. The system has been going through a lot of change in the past two years, including hiring a lot of new principals. While the introduction of iPads and laptops last year was not expected to boost scores overnight, it’s doubtful anyone anticipated scores dipping at so many schools.
The challenge for Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody is to keep these scores from discouraging teachers at the very time they need to be pumped up with enthusiasm, the beginning of the school year. While the scores beg for study and analysis, in some ways they are history. Teachers have to focus on the students sitting in their classes now and set goals for higher scores at the end of this school year. The first-year jitters of dealing with new technology are behind them; many educators took advantage of professional development opportunities over the summer and have more ahead of them. There are solid reasons to be optimistic about 2015-16.
Community support is essential. School performance is student performance, and Rowan has a high rate of poverty among school-age children. Helping those children catch up and stick with their peers is like swimming against a strong current — a constant struggle to overcome natural forces. This is no time to back off and leave the work to others. The schools need parental involvement, savvy volunteers and political and financial support.
While she was not addressing Rowan’s situation specifically, state Superintendent Dr. June Atkinson was on target when she called for more pre-school education, calendar flexibility and expanded summer reading camps to address test scores statewide. Rowan desperately needs more preschool and summer learning opportunities for disadvantaged children who slide further and further behind. The community needs to develop some solutions of its own; these kids are growing up too fast to wait on the General Assembly.