Let’s stipulate a couple of things:
• The continually increasing threshold for schools to achieve Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law is ludicrous, especially when it soon will require 100 percent of students to meet those marks.
• Comparisons of Richmond County schools to Columbia County schools are inevitable, but rarely valid.
Still, until NCLB is either repealed or Georgia’s school superintendent succeeds in getting the state a waiver from the rising requirements, it’s the law we have to live with. And while it isn’t valid to compare Richmond County to Columbia County, it is entirely valid to measure that system against other communities in the state with similar demographics.
It isn’t pretty. When evaluated alongside similar communities in Georgia, Richmond’s school system comes in dead last with a higher percentage of schools failing to make AYP standards.
Why? Simply put, the system as a whole is a victim of individual success.
Schools such as Davidson Fine Arts and A.R. Johnson are among some of the highest-performing, most-celebrated schools in the state. Yet its high-achieving students are drawn from schools in the rest of Richmond County, which means every school donates some of its best students to the magnet schools.
What’s left at the schools they came from? Everyone else. And as the AYP listing shows, they aren’t doing so well.
This criticism of the effect of the magnet schools is nothing new. What’s unfortunate, though, is that Richmond County school officials glorify those schools, yet seem blind to the damage of that separate and unequal system.
A public education system should do the best for the most. Richmond County’s is doing the best for a few at the expense of most. Because of the success of those lucky enough to be at the magnets schools, that isn’t likely to change – but it’s important to keep in mind next time those schools’ success is celebrated.
Just remember to ask: What about everyone else?