News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Hartselle dropout rate should alarm board, superintendent

The state Department of Education released standardized test scores last week, and as usual, Hartselle students scored above the state average on most indicators.

The results showed that 100 percent of seniors passed the reading portion of the graduation exam and 98 percent passed the math part. This means an overwhelming majority of seniors are graduating on time. That's the good news.

Now, the bad news. Hartselle had a 15.6 percent dropout rate, which is better than county systems in Limestone and Morgan counties, but below the state average.

This is unacceptable, especially for a system that prides itself as being one of the best in the state.

Many issues are confronting education leaders, but the "C" Hartselle earned because of its dropout numbers should alarm Superintendent William Michael Reed and the city school board.

About four years ago, former board Chairman Ronnie Abercrombie requested that Hartselle do something about the dropout rate, which was approaching 19 percent. The numbers dropped, but now they are back up.

The current board members have shown a willingness to address academic issues. But, if the students are not there, you can't educate them.

Hartselle has a good school system and its residents are probably surprised to see a "C" for any reason on the system's report card.

If the superintendent and board can't figure out why students are leaving Hartselle, maybe they can visit Lawrence County where the dropout rate declined from nearly 20 percent four years ago to 5.4 percent in the 2004-05 school year.

The graduation exam numbers show that teachers are educating. Now, school leaders, including the superintendent, board members and principals, must figure out how to keep students in the classroom.

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