September 3, 2008

Time for Roanokers to Make Ayp

The Virginia Department of Education last week released annual statistics that judge whether schools made adequate yearly progress in teaching reading and math.

The results were exactly as expected: Suburban schools with mostly white, middle-class students performed well on state tests. Poorer, urban schools, where most kids eat free lunches, have failed yet again.

It's the same old story retold every year since No Child Left Behind promised all that would change. Where exactly is the progress?

Here's one place: Highland Park Elementary School. The school is one of Roanoke's 16 schools that does perform well, though, it wasn't always that way.

A few years back, Highland Park was failing before Congregations in Action, a group of mostly Old Southwest churches, adopted the school. Members fill the kids' bellies with snacks and meals, and their minds with tutoring and companionship.

Highland Park students for the past three years have passed their exams.

How much of that is because people -- without a child or any tangible stake in the school -- decided that for these kids the future wasn't predetermined?

Their influence can't be quantified by a No. 2 pencil and an exam, but there is little doubt they've raised the standards for learning by children who have experienced little beyond the walls of their own neighborhood.

It's been assumed in education circles for many years that when parents and the community are engaged in a school, children do well. The yearly progress statistics bear that out.

We keep testing schools and students and getting the same results. Isn't it time to test the community? Roanoke students at every age -- but most especially in middle school -- need mentors -- and most especially professional men. What are your plans?

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