School report not well received

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Though the State Board of Education has released the new version of what was known as report cards for state schools, many superintendents across the state have problems with the information contained in the new accountability reports.

One superintendent that particularly had issues is Lula Larkin, superintendent of Sumter County Schools, where Livingston Junior High School was listed as needing state academic assistance.

“Comparing our information with the state’s information, I have several questions about how they got their information,” she said. “That school will have to receive academic assistance from the state, but Dr. (Joseph) Morton said they are looking into the results because most of the superintendents in the state are having problems with it.”

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Despite being put on the academic assistance list, Larkin said the school has improved and continues to do so.

Amelia L. Johnson High School in Marengo County was also identified as a school in need of academic assistance, however, Marengo County Schools Superintendent Luke Hallmark could not be reached for comment.

Of the area schools, those two were the only ones considered to be in immediate need of help, though others in the five-county are were listed on the schools in need of improvement list – including Livingston High School and York West End Junior High School, both in Sumpter County, Greene County’s Eutaw Primary School and Amelia L. Johnson High School.

Larkin said those schools were already in the improvement stage, and had improved over last year. She also said that other schools in the system, particularly West End, had received good marks on the accountability report.

“The rest (of the schools) did real well. We’re real proud of West End, those students scored very well,” Larkin said. “We’re happy about our improvement but know we can do better.”

Hale County Superintendent Joseph Stegal said his schools faired very well, with two meeting 100 percent of their goals and another meeting 90 percent of its goals.

“One met all its proficiency (test scores) goals, but fell below the participation (those taking the tests) rate,” Stegal said. “Greensboro East did well on participation, but not on proficiency, but we have a good new principal there who came on last year and he’s putting a good plan together.”

As Larkin indicated, Stegal said the system as a whole had done well, but “obviously we’re not satisfied.”

Stegal also agreed that numbers his administration has do not match those that the state released, but said Morton is supposed to be looking into the discrepancies.

“Dr. Morton is supposed to give us some info by Aug. 17,” he said.

Another problem local superintendents see with the accountability report is its formula that compares all schools in the state with each other, whether it is Greene County High School or Brookwood High School.

“Our kids in West Alabama have a lot less opportunities and resources, but we’re compared to (better-funded schools),” Stegal said. “We use a lot more of our limited resources addressing the AYP (annual yearly progress) instead of being able to implement new programs. It just widens the gap between the haves and have-nots.”

Stegal said that is especially disheartening because students in the Black Belt are not afforded the same kind of education, and it sometimes holds them back.

“It’s said when where you’re born determines the quality of education you get,” he said.