• 48°

My Turn: We can’t keep waiting until next year

By Larry Bowyer

I believe that we can all agree that the Rowan Salisbury Schools’ 2014-2015 state test scores are deplorable. What needs our attention now is figuring out how the system managed to do such an injustice to our children; then we need to figure out how to fix the problem.

Addressing the term “implementation dip” isn’t too difficult. The superintendent, Dr. Moody, now states that this dip (lower test scores) was expected. Unfortunately, last spring when she revealed her new strategic plan, all we heard was how this multi-million dollar conversion to digital instruction was going to set our students’ learning on fire! A dip in scores was never discussed. We thought we were as low as we could go, but we were wrong; our students’ growth last year was negative. How could an administrator in good conscious implement a plan that was expected to cause a drop in students’ achievement, when our district’s scores were already some of the lowest performance scores in the state!

The second excuse used by our district administration was the level of poverty in the Rowan-Salisbury Schools. According to Spotlight on Poverty.org, a reliable agency, Scotland County is the poorest county in North Carolina. Their EOG and EOC composite scores beat RSS by a significant margin. Scotland’s EOG scores were 4 points below the state average. Rowan Salisbury EOG scores were 15 points below the state average. Davidson County was 19 points higher than RSS on EOCs and 17 points higher on EOGs. With that in mind, the poverty excuse doesn’t seem to hold much water!

If poverty is our primary problem, why did Dr. Moody implement a program that would require home Internet access to complete students’ homework? If 60 percent of our students are on free or reduced lunch, what percent of our children have Internet access at home? That issue was addressed last spring and Dr. Moody’s unbelievable response was, “The students without Internet can go to Cici’s Pizza to do their homework.” How’s that working for you, Dr. Moody?  Have you ever been to Cici’s Pizza? Sounds a bit like, “Let them eat cake.”

About midyear, Dr. Moody figured out the problem and asked churches and businesses to open their facilities in the afternoon to students so they could use the Internet to do their homework. That didn’t work out either. Did she really believe that churches and business were willing to accept the liability associated with programs of that type. Even if the institutions wanted to help, and were willing to hire supervisors or arrange for volunteers to supervise the students, insurance would not approve the programs. Can you imagine the havoc of having students of all grade levels wondering in and out of the church fellowship hall? If that isn’t asking for trouble, I don’t know what is!

Dr. Moody and her team can be held responsible for conceiving a naive and poorly constructed strategic plan for our schools, but we can’t forget that our school board approved the plan. Why didn’t the board see the obvious pitfalls? The current board is not the same board that approved the plan. We can only hope that the new board will ask the right questions and do some research rather than depending totally on the “dog and pony show” that is presented by our superintendent.

The students and parents of Rowan County deserve a high quality educational experience. The economy of our community suffers when we continue to produce such poor school results. Don’t blame the tests and don’t blame Common Core. The tests are the measuring stick. There are districts in our state that have 90-plus percent of their students on grade level; that speaks volumes! Our EOG performance composite score is 41.3 percent; our high school EOC composite score is 45.4. More than half of our students are performing below grade level. Our problems are internal.

 Larry Bowyer lives in Salisbury.

My Turn submissions should be 500-700 words. Send to letters@salisburypost.com with “My Turn” in the subject line.

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