Students, teachers on right path

Published 4:44 pm Thursday, March 11, 2004

By Staff
Chuck Bodiford Publisher
Education and Escambia County, over the last year, have been a topic of hot debate. Rarely could you talk about one without the other popping up somewhere in the conversation. First there was last years graduating exam and the grade delivered by the Alabama Department of Education and then later in the year the vote to renew and increase the ad valorem tax.
In the 2001-2002 report card, Escambia County was given a letter grade of a "D" for the graduation exam. According the report, our school system had 81.7% of its students passing the exam. The state average for this test was 90.3%. If you are like me, I could see there was a problem. I'm not the best at math, but what I saw was 20% of our children not capable of graduating high school.
Later that year the citizens of Escambia County were asked to vote not only to renew the 3 mill ad Valorem tax, but also increase it an additional 10 in order to generate much needed revenue. The citizens came through that Tuesday night and passed the measure by almost a 2 to 1 margin. I don't mind saying, I was in support of the tax renewal and increase. I was never in doubt and my opinion was those that failed the exam proved that something needed to be done.
In today's paper we have the opportunity to share the results of this year's report card that was issued earlier last week. Concerning the graduating exam, I am amazed and congratulate the students, parents, teacher, and administration for a job well done. This year our school district did not take a small step forward to receive a "C", but made a gigantic leap forward receiving a grade of a "B". Our students passed the exam by a percentage of 92.3%, only two-tenths lower than the state average.
Again, I am not good at math, but if in last year's report card 20% of the students could not pass and now, one year later, only 10% could not pass, then to me the school system made a positive increase of 50%. Half of those kids can now pass and go one to the next stage of their life. With that said, let bring this point up. The school system increased its performance without the assistance of the ad valorem increase, which will not go in effect until October. What made the difference? Was it us as citizens and parents showing we have faith and investing in our children that made the difference? I am not saying the schools don't need it, but I would challenge the students, parents, teachers, and school administration to continue to raise the bar, do not become lax and use the revenue from the December's vote to take our school system to the top. You are definitely on the right track, keep up the good work.
Chuck Bodiford is an Atmore native and publisher of the Advance. He may be reached by calling 368-2123 or by email at chuck.bodiford@atmoreadvance.com