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SUNDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Easy to find scapegoats when things go wrong

John Brock writes in a letter to the editor today about his experience in recruiting workers to Decatur.

"... we can usually move prospects beyond the high level Internet data down to the details about the excellent Decatur neighborhood schools in the areas where they might live," he says.

The review of how Decatur schools stand in relation to those in Madison and Huntsville in the Sunday, Dec. 11, edition of THE DAILY supports his thesis.

Decatur's problem with recruiting people and industry here isn't the education system.

Data shows the city's scores on the American College Test are in a statistical dead heat with surrounding school systems.

  • Last year, fifth-graders scored 11 percentage points above their counterparts in Huntsville on the writing assessment, while seventh-graders scored 5 percentage points higher.
  • Decatur fifth-graders scored 5 percent higher on writing assessments than Madison fifth-graders.
  • Last year, Decatur and Huntsville fourth, sixth- and eighth-graders' reading scores were statistically the same.
  • Last year, Decatur and Huntsville's math scores for students in grades 4, 6, and 8 were statistically the same.

    Decatur has a positive story to tell about its schools. Our elected and civic leaders need to be touting the Alabama Reading Initiative, the Mobile Math Initiative and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program as programs that are in place to help students compete at the highest levels.

    It's not the school system's fault that 51 percent of its students this year are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.

    The school system didn't ask for a 57 percent increase in non-English speaking students over the past five years. Mostly Hispanic, the schools this year have 697 students who use English as their second language.

    Yet, the test scores are competitive.

    Perhaps the real question should be why so many of our students are falling into the poverty category. That might point a finger or two in other directions.

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