Friday, July 22, 2011

22 JUL 11: The One in the Middle

Two years of my education were spent in a junior high school. But I don't think many children in the U.S. attend "junior high" anymore. That phrase seemed to go the way of junior varsity football teams. In fact, the only place in education where "junior" is popular now is in college football - because top players can skip their senior year and turn pro.

The "middle school" replaced junior high several decades ago - but after watching Thursday night's newscasts, I'm wondering if it's time to reverse that. The Muscogee County School District admitted only one middle school made "Adequate Yearly Progress" this year. That's one out of 12 - which means most students probably need calculators to determine what percent that is.

Preliminary results show the only Muscogee County middle school to achieve Adequate Yearly Progress was Blackmon Road. The other 11 are.... well, I guess they're simply adequate.

A statement from the Muscogee County School District said every school passed the participation part of AYP. That means the absentee rate for taking key tests was low. Offer pizza and ice cream parties for high attendance, and that part ought to be easy....

The trouble clearly is that many Muscogee County students are falling short in reading and mathematics tests. Today's young people may say the words "go figure" a lot, but that doesn't mean they actually go somewhere and do it.

Superintendent Susan Andrews told reporters 11 middle schools made AYP last year. This year, only Blackmon Road did. Middle school students may be letting us all down - by not telling the next generation the correct answers in advance.

But the school district doesn't help its effort to improve math scores, when it counts four "high schools" as meeting AYP. One of the four is the Early College Academy, which is inside Kendrick High and isn't really a full-fledged high school. And since Kendrick missed the cut, school integration somehow isn't working there.

Overall, only about one-third of Muscogee County schools made AYP this year. Dr. Susan Andrews blamed this on several things, such as state school budget cuts and higher federal achievement standards. In other words, the Superintendent sounded a lot like Isaiah Hugley before Columbus Council.

The Superintendent said several more schools may wind up making AYP, after an appeals process and student retesting this summer. But let's be honest here: a one-third success rate in any field normally would bring some kind of shakeup -- or in 2011, at least a "fire" page on Facebook.

So why was Blackmon Road Middle School the successful exception to the AYP rule? One factor could be a "gifted services" program, where qualifying students learn "advanced content" with a strong emphasis on writing. This can be dangerous, of course - as some growing middle school boys start to consider Maxim magazine an example of advanced writing.

Thursday's statement from Muscogee County Schools tried to focus on something positive. The graduation rate in May was 83.6 percent, up from 82.2 percent in 2010. The remaining 16 percent may be available for interviews this weekend at the skateboard park.

Now a short course in current events, from Thursday's headlines....

+ Columbus Police told the Ledger-Enquirer a driver was pulled over for running a red light in MidTown -- and after an officer smelled marijuana, the driver admitted he'd smoked some pot minutes before. Then he reportedly admitted pot was in the center compartment. If police had pressed a little longer, that driver might have been on a deportation plane to Mexico.

+ WRBL checked a reporter from one viewer that a city emergency siren near Key Elementary School hasn't made noise during Saturday tests in several weeks. Isn't this amazing? Someone in Columbus actually thinks the sirens do NOT sound enough....

+ The Americus City Council voted to terminate longtime Police Chief James Green, and eliminate the assistant chief's job. It's a move to save the city nearly $100,000 - but I doubt Green ever expected to have something in common with Kurt Schmitz and Dee Armstrong.

+ Auburn University officials announced football fans will be allowed to roll the trees at Toomer's Corner this fall after all. Given what we've heard about the poisoning of those trees, this is stunning news. You'd think the oaks would want to retire while they're on top.

(Auburn officials obviously want fans to take a kinder, gentler approach to rolling the Toomer's Corner trees. You won't mind tossing one sheet of paper at a time, will you?)

+ The Auburn and Georgia football coaches had their turns at the microphone, during Southeastern Conference Media Days. Auburn's Gene Chizik says despite a continuing investigation of the Cam Newton case, he sleeps well at night. And with Chizik's big raise, he can afford to buy the fanciest Select Comfort bed in the showroom.

(Georgia coach Mark Richt told reporters he wants Isaiah Crowell to play well at running back this fall - but he's not expecting the former Carver High School star to "save Georgia." That obviously will be the job of the Republicans in the state legislature, during the upcoming special session on redistricting.)

+ Instant Message to Columbus Hospice: Yes, I noticed - you've changed the name of this weekend's big fund-raising concert from "Denim and Diamonds," to add "Black Tie." I wouldn't want to see thousands of male country music fans walking into the Civic Center topless, either.

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