Trumpeting success and failure

Published 11:09 pm Thursday, October 25, 2012

“No Child Left Behind” was already a trite slogan when the legislation that drives so many of the nation’s educational efforts at the primary and secondary levels took effect in 2001. Yet, as with many clichés, the catchphrase distilled a concept that most folks take for granted: Every child should have the same opportunity to receive the best education the nation can offer.

That concept guides most parents’ and taxpayers’ assessments of the effectiveness of public education throughout the land, and Suffolk is no exception. The concept is also at the root of this page’s frequent critiques of Suffolk’s public schools system, as well as its news coverage of the system’s failure to meet that standard.

Make no mistake: There are plenty of good things happening in the city’s public schools. There are fine teachers doing amazing work with gifted students and students with special needs. There are coaches who take it upon themselves to teach their players the important life lessons that sports offer singular opportunities to present. There are administrators who have fresh ideas for engaging students and getting them to see the importance of the 13 or so years they will spend within the Suffolk educational system. And there are specific schools that continue to excel even in the midst of disappointing news and below-par test scores.

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A large portion of the news printed in the Suffolk News-Herald each week is devoted to those stories, and the clippings posted at schools around the city bear out that fact.

But Suffolk’s parents and taxpayers have a right to expect more than that from their public school system. They have a right to expect consistent high standards that sometimes seem to be lacking. And the stories that tend to make a bigger splash — the ones about poor test scores and dropout rates that fall below state averages and disappointing on-time graduation rates — prove those parents and taxpayers are not getting what they deserve.

Some folks in the public school system are offended that this newspaper makes such a big deal out of those latter types of stories. But we believe in the concept behind “no child left behind,” and the truth is that we believe the school system does, as well. What’s less clear, however, is that Suffolk’s public schools are rising to the spirit of that challenge. When they do, be assured that success will be trumpeted just as clearly on our news pages as the failures have been.