August 2014 Column

   Welcome back to school.  The beginning of school always comes with mixed reactions. The loss of freedom and carefree summer days is troubling for some while the excitement to see friends and get back into a routine is attractive for others.
   The recent release of school grades is certainly a topic among many Hobbs residents.  Whether we agree or disagree on the use of student test results as a measurement on the effectiveness of a school, most people want concrete evidence that a school is providing a quality education for our children.  Until we can create a method to compare and contrast performance, we will be compelled to use the current assessment.
   I hope the improved grades at 10 of our seventeen campuses demonstrate the path we have chosen is a positive route and will have lasting implications for the academic futures of our children. Two years ago, HMS was one of the poorest performing school districts in the state, which typically ranks as one of the lowest academically performing states in the union.  It was truly a turning point in time. We had to make hard and visionary decisions. HMS has gone through audits by some of the top educational experts in the country and thanks to the J.F Maddox Foundation partnership, we came away with concrete plans for academic improvement.
   I continue to emphasize we do not want to celebrate too much when we receive positive marks nor do we want to condemn a campus when the results are less than stellar. There are too many moving parts to throw all your eggs into one basket. I do believe the across-the-board improvement is a compelling argument for the direction the district is heading.  That being said, it is important to remain focused on the goal of getting all students to the level of proficiency.  Our growth has enabled us to get high marks from the state, but the reality is we still have many students who do not perform at grade level. Our goal is to have students improve their reading skills more than a year’s growth each academic calendar so they will eventually master the basic concepts and be able to prosper on their own without additional interventions.
   The use of standardized tests is just one measure of a school.  Raef Esquith, who wrote “Teach like your Hair is on Fire,” says the true measure of a school is made when you follow its students five to ten years after they graduate.  A good school instills problem solving as well as coping techniques which enables students to become productive citizens in the world.  The beginning of the year is a great time to set personal goals of academic achievement for our students.  We hope parents get involved in their children’s education in order to help them create a foundation in which they can build their academic success.
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