Friday, June 26, 2009

26 JUN 09: Staying Power?

It's the middle of summer vacation -- but Thursday brought surprisingly good news about public schools in east Alabama. But no, that good news was NOT a unanimous decision on the Russell County Superintendent....

The news came from a new "Education Week" report on high school graduation rates across the country. Believe it or not, Phenix City Superintendent Larry DiChiara says his district placed in the national top five. Yet he did NOT call on residents to celebrate the ranking by approving a new school sales tax.

The latest senior class included in the Education Week study was 2006. Almost 69 percent of Phenix City's students that year graduated on time. OK, Glenwood School - how did YOUR senior class do? And please separate the "couldn't afford tuition" group from everyone else.

The graduation rate in Phenix City has shown a sharp increase in recent years. In 2002 the rate was 38.5 percent. In 2006 it was 68.9 percent. Assuming this trend line has continued, everyone in Central High School's class of 2010 could take a fleet of buses to Auburn University.

The high national ranking sounded downright remarkable - but then I listened carefully to how Phenix City Superintendent Larry DiChiara explained it Thursday night on WLTZ. It was a top-five ranking in "exceeding expectations," not the graduation rate itself. So Central High School apparently were praised for not being as stupid as the stereotype-makers thought.

Education Week's report includes not only the senior class graduation rate, but a "district performance score" for doing better or worse than expected. There's a mathematical formula on the web site for how that expectation is figured - as opposed to simply polling 100 cynical bloggers.

Auburn city schools also won praise from Education Week - as the 2006 high school graduation rate was 84.4 percent. Of course, Auburn schools have enjoyed a reputation for years of being much better than average. Only this past spring did that reputation finally reach the high school baseball team.

But the Education Week study is not so kind to Georgia's public schools. Only about 56 percent of eligible high school seniors graduated in the latest reporting year - and only Nevada's percentage was lower. Now I'm really wondering about the University of Georgia hiring the University of Nevada's men's basketball coach.

In fact, Education Week reports Muscogee County's graduation rate in 2006 was a lowly 48.3 percent. That's down from 53.1 percent in 1996, and a full 20 percentage points below Phenix City. Who could have imagined this? Cross the 13th Street Bridge into Alabama, and the teenagers become 20 percent smarter.

Yet the Education Week "district performance score" for Muscogee County is 112.9 - so the graduation rate is about 13 percent better than expectations. Based on my math, that means only 43 percent of the high school students in Columbus are expected to graduate. It also might mean we need several more skateboard parks around town.

The Education Week report includes another statistic which could surprise you. More than 60 percent of the students in Muscogee County and Phenix City public schools are African-American. Yet majority-Caucasian Russell County schools have the lowest graduation rate of all. To borrow from Dr. King, let us not judge by the color of one's skin - but the content of one's brain.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Someone actually noticed our big milestone of the week. At least someone wrote us about it....

Dear Richard,

Congratulations on 2,000 blog posts! Your site continues to be daily reading for me.

I wanted to let you know we have launched my official campaign website, I hope you will share that with your readers and let them know that is where they can go online to find out more about my positions on issues facing the Georgia General Assembly. We hope to add more content in the coming months, including position papers on issues and more of my speeches on various topics of public interest. My speech to the Columbus Georgia Tea Party is available there as well as other information about the campaign.

I hope you will take the time to review the site yourself and I look forward to any feedback on issues you or your readers would like to share with me.



Hmmmm -- if Josh McKoon is asking us to post an e-mail about his campaign web site, does that mean he can't afford to buy any ads yet?

Since we were double-dared invited, we checked the Josh McKoon campaign web site Thursday night. It lists five main issues in his State Senate bid - and in a stunning surprise, not one of them mentions adding park land in midtown Columbus.

The Josh McKoon web site also invites you to a campaign fundraiser next Monday evening. Trouble is, it's in Atlanta - and on the 27th floor of a midtown skyscraper. Yes sir, we like our officeholders to be down-to-earth local folks....

Let's take one more message, about last weekend's big events:

Richard, I was driving down Victory Dr last Thursday afternoon and noticed a commercial lawn service had many employees cutting grass on the city right-of-way and picking up litter there and in the median on Victory Dr. I realize the cleanup was probably due to the 2nd Grand Opening of the Infantry Museum the next day and the AFLAC Games that weekend, both taking place in that general area. My lst thought was that the city waited rather late to clean up that area as many out of towners had already arrived. Also, I thought that cleanup was usually done by city workers or prisoners. So my questions are: why did the city wait so late to do the cleanup and how much did the city spend on the contract for this private company to do this work? And was this contract put out for bid? In some foreign countries that I've lived in property owners are required to keep the public area in front of their property clean. That sure would save the city government a lot of money especially now when tax revenues are down. Just curious

I see no problem with cutting the grass on the eve of a big event. It's a bit like Fort Benning soldiers getting their haircut on the afternoon before a big inspection.

The new Columbus city budget taking effect next week includes $2.4 million for "landscape and forestry." A search of the city web site found grass cutting historically has gone through a bidding process, when it comes to clearing lots. And besides, prisoners probably aren't allowed to work outside in the afternoons at this time of year. They could claim heatstroke, and sue the city for millions.

I've noticed a private company doing landscaping work along the Riverwalk for months, while I've been out jogging. In fact, at this time of year it's a race for me to get outside and exercise before the work crew starts blowing dirt and grass clippings into my lungs.

We're holding two more e-mails for the weekend - but in the meantime, let's check other Thursday news:

+ The Columbus NAACP held a rally at the Government Center in behalf of convicted killer Troy Davis. But from what I saw on TV, the attendance was less than 15 people. That's what happens when the NAACP holds an event at the same time and place as a Sheriff's Department blood drive.

+ Federal health officials announced Muscogee and Sumter County have the first cases of "swine flu." That's OK - as long as the count stays at H-1-N-1, Ill-1.

+ Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions told National Public Radio he's not sure "hate crime" discrimination still occurs today against women and homosexual people. Perhaps his next trip to Russell County should include a stop at the Shelter for Battered Women....

+ WFXE-FM called off its usual evening programming, to play music by the late Michael Jackson. They even played "The Girl is Mine" - perhaps marking the first time Paul McCartney has been heard on "Foxie 105" in decades.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We wrote plenty of jokes about Michael Jackson over the years -- but this isn't the right time to bring them out. We might in a few days.)

To offer a story tip, advertise to our readers, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 704 (+ 19, 2.8%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

site stats