Clearing the low hurdle

Published 7:09 pm Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Suffolk public school system got a bit of good news this week with the announcement that all of its schools are fully accredited, having met the state’s goals for the percentage of students in various grades who passed their Standards of Learning tests.

Administrators for the local school system and the state’s Department of Education announced that they were proud of the results, but — as Suffolk Deputy Superintendent Deran R. Whitney acknowledged in an emailed statement on Wednesday, “There is still work to be done.”

In fact, accreditation of a school or a school system is but the lowest of the low hurdles that educators should clear on their way to providing quality education and an effective return on the taxpayers’ investment therein. Schools that trumpet the accomplishment make an implicit statement that they are aiming low in their goal-setting, and they set a poor example for their students, whom they should be encouraging to do their best, not just good enough.


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Suffolk does, indeed, have a lot of work to do within its public schools. With dropout rates nearing 20 percent, the system is the second worst in Hampton Roads at keeping students in school through graduation. Achievement gaps between groups of students continue to drag the system down and contribute to widening the gap in earning potential and social status of its graduates.

Unlike accreditation, neither dropout prevention nor closing achievement gaps presents an easy solution. Nonetheless, having cleared the low hurdle of accreditation, Suffolk Public Schools must now focus all its efforts on those much higher hurdles. Taxpayers and the students whose education they pay for deserve no less.