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OUR VIEW: Report cards reveal mixed results

The Alabama State Department of Education released its annual report cards and failing schools list for all public schools in Alabama in the past few weeks.

In Chambers County, there were some positives and negatives for the Chambers County School District and the Lanett City Schools. Every school system in the state also had highs and lows in the report.

Many of the schools in both school districts improved with only a couple seeing its report card score decrease. That’s a testament to the hard-working educators and administrators we have in the district leading our future generation.

Before we get too deep into an analysis, we want to point out the depth of information available. Compiling the scores and putting them into an easy-to-understand format is a difficult task, and to be honest, we could probably publish a chapter book based just in Chambers County’s scores. Just know that if you want more information, it’s available on the Alabama State Department of Education website.

Our story in Thursday’s paper touched on the highlights, giving a quick look at how each school performed when compared to last year and on the overall districts and how it performed in comparison to the state.

One of the biggest highlights of the report was W.O. Lance Elementary, which is the only local school to best the state report card average. The school scored an 86 and just missed out on a perfect academic achievement growth score with 99.24 percent out of 100. Academic growth is measured by individual students who demonstrate improvement in reading, English and math.

We’re sure administrators in the Chambers County School District are looking at what Five Points is doing and trying to emulate it across other elementary schools in the district.

Only one area elementary schools saw its score fall, and that was Huguley Elementary, which dropped three points, so it wasn’t a significant decline.

The middle schools in the region also mostly improved. W.F. Burns slightly raised its score by a point to 78 and Lanett Junior High School improved by seven points on the strength of a 97.63 percent academic growth score — an increase of nearly six points from the previous year.

On the other side of the coin, John P. Powell Middle School fell back one point. JP Powell was also listed on the state’s failing schools list, which lists the bottom 6 percent of schools for the past year based on the state’s standardized assessment tests in reading, English and math. The reduction of academic growth by about five points could be the culprit there.

We’ll get back to the failing school list in a moment.

The real concern for residents in Chambers County and Lanett are the high schools.

While we will admit Lanett High School increasing its overall score by four points to a 73 and scored 100 percent on academic growth is impressive and encouraging, the almost 12 point drop in the graduation rate is alarming. It’s important to note that the report card measures the graduation rate only for students who graduate in four years, so students who had to take a fifth year, do not get counted, but that score is still lower than anyone would like it to be.

Lanett also showed a decrease in college and career readiness down to 48.28 percent.

In the Chambers County School District, Valley and LaFayette High Schools both saw a decrease in their overall scores.

At Valley High, there was a significant drop in overall score to 73, down seven points from 2018. Academic achievement dropped by 11 points, academic growth dropped 8 points, the graduation rate dropped 6 points and college and career readiness dropped 11 points.

Just like LaFayette, we believe these scores are not indicative of the quality of the students in Valley, so simply put — this has to get better.

Some areas for improvement in LaFayette are in its academic achievement, which tumbled down to 29.66 percent. The school also saw an almost 9 percent drop in college and career readiness, where the high school scored at 48.28 percent.

We know LaFayette had a strong graduating class in 2019 with millions of dollars in college scholarships, and there are many bright, talented students walking the halls now. However, these scores aren’t good, and we trust the administrators and educators there have a plan to turn this around.

Like J.P. Powell Middle School, LaFayette was also listed on the failing schools list.

However, parents should know that there were strides made in the scores. Not only did many schools improve, but chronic absenteeism improved in both districts. That’s important because more students in the classroom means scores can and should improve.

In Lanett, the junior high school has reduced chronic absenteeism by about 8 percent. The school district has worked hard by placing incentives and after-school programs to make students want to be in the classroom.

In Chambers, the hiring of Tseyonka Davidson as the district’s truancy officer has seemed to fix much of the absentee issue. Every school in the district reduced its chronic absenteeism rate. JP Powell had an outstanding 9-point drop and Valley High dropped its rate by more than 6 points.

Like we said before, there are encouraging signs about our future in education. The elementary schools seem to be performing at a high level, which is good news for the years to come. We’ve identified the high schools have work to do, but we believe there is plenty of talent on both sides of the classroom and in the administration to get the job done.

We have faith in our education system, and now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.