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Jeff Meadors: Let's shine some light on schools' performance problems

Jeff Meadors

Jeff Meadors

Charter fever. Some have it. Others hate it. Let's break it down.

While studies like CREDO vary on charter performance, one thing is crystal clear: public education in Georgia remains at the bottom of the U.S. pile. And it's a Georgia historically sacrificing students for whom successful models should be available.

As trucks unload school data, the spin begins and I wonder: Why is there no choice for students dwelling in ZIP codes, school zones and feeder patterns where the only place called school may be characterized by distracted leadership, poor management, weekly serious crime, budget oversights and most performance indicators below state and national averages?

For whom is this working? Not students. Face the numbers.

Whether schools can or cannot amass leadership acumen in each building sufficient to command control of disappointing data no longer matters to some. They haven't done it and seem unlikely to do more than roll around in new initiatives.

Enter the electrified charter debate. Lights on. Roaches scatter. Don't students have a right not to go to school in buildings both unsafe and low performing?

Teachers want their lesson plans back, to teach creative and critical thought without teleprompters. They want backup on disciplinary referrals. And many tell me they would like the chance to teach in a charter school.

Now enter private school and home study options and recently released data on the numbers of students opting out of local systems. They are leaving some public schools in double digits while parents pay double just to get them out.

Dovetail this with ACT data sponsored by Exxon Mobil showing 48 percent of 2011 U.S. graduates ready for college math and 30 percent prepared for college science. Add 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress data showing only 35 percent of U.S. eighth-graders "proficient" in math and 32 percent in science and try to convince me that more successful options shouldn't exist.

Is this really the best we can do for American youngsters when science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields will grow by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018 based on U.S. Commerce Department data?

Is this it?

Corporate boards delivering similar performance year after year would not have made it out of one shareholder meeting alive. So is it any wonder that communities want successful options for students as the fever pitch sparks from government disciples in lockdown screaming local control?

I support local control and public education. And while successful models and high-quality teachers exist in most school districts, students without these luxuries should not be forced into pessimistic trajectories that last a lifetime simply because we are unwilling to face the numbers and do that which is hard.

And if unwilling, then we need to rethink those mission statements that are trying to sell what an increasingly informed public is not buying.

The lights are coming on and the roaches are dancing quixotic.

Jeff Meadors is the District 1 representative on the Newton County Board of Education. Readers may email him at pjeffreymeadors@gmail.com.