Schools have critics; what they need is backing

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 17, 2010

Perhaps there will always be those who blame schools when students don’t achieve, but intercession numbers for the Vicksburg Warren School District cast that claim in a different light.

Specifically, 809 students in grades 3 through 6 were eligible for three days of remedial work before the spring semester started on Jan. 8. Parents of fewer than half, 376, sent their children to the free tutorial sessions.

There is way too much tongue-wagging and finger-pointing on the topic of education and far too little concerted problem-solving.

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Confronted with well-below-average rankings by the state Department of Education last fall, what public schools here need from the community is encouragement and support for a specific plan of action.

The “father of intercession” here is Dr. James Price, superintendent. It was his suggestion, after meeting with teachers, to revamp the 9,000-student district’s academic calendar last year and this year. The new intercession schedule added four periods per year during which students who had learned what was taught during the previous nine weeks have some extra days off. For those who hadn’t made progress, days were built into the calendar to try to help them catch up before they fell too far behind.

It was a commonsense plan, but it may not be continued.

As Price said, there’s really not much point in offering help if too-few parents insist on their children taking advantage of the opportunity. Also, the attendance figures make it a real stretch to place all the blame for “bad schools” at the feet of teachers and administrators.

While it could be said that weather discouraged enrollment in the January intercession, that doesn’t explain why attendance has been down by increasing margins since the intercession calendar debuted in the fall semester of 2008.

The community needs to be grateful for parents who do avail themselves of catch-up opportunities for their children and encouraging to others. In the same way, teachers and administrators don’t merit blanket praise or blanket criticism. The component consists of each person who calls Warren County home.

Rest assured, if we fail to recognize that schools need more from us than blame, the rankings are almost sure to remain below par. Trite but true: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.