May 17, 2018 11:02:13 AM
The Columbus Municipal School District will soon have a new superintendent of schools, its fourth since 2012.
The challenges that await the district's new leader are many and well-known. Aside from the revolving door in the superintendent's office, the district has struggled to meet academic standards - it has a "D" rating from the state since the grade ratings were initiated in 2012.
The inability of the district to significantly improve its rating, regardless of who occupied the superintendent's position, has created an air of fatalism in the community, which in itself is an obstacle. When a community loses faith in its schools, they are often left without the kind of broad support essential for significant progress.
While not denying the sobering reality those ratings clearly indicate, it is worth noting there are some real indications progress is being made.
Last year, Columbus High School's rating improved from a "D" to a "B" after two consecutive "F" ratings in 2014 and 2015. In some quarters, that two letter grade improvement was considered something of an anomaly. Yet, if the poor grades are given weight, it's difficult to argue why a good grade should be dismissed. These grades are not the only measure by which a school or a school district should be measured, it is true. But it is also true that these ratings are the only objective measure we have to assess performance.
This week, we saw another example of progress, one that cannot be so easily dismissed. Every third-grade student at Fairview Elementary passed the state-mandated third-grade reading test on their first attempt. That's the first time that has happened. Last year, 93.75 percent of Fairview students passed the testing. Sale, Cook and Franklin Academy all improved their passing rate while Stokes-Beard's passing rate fell slightly.
That kind of overall improvement illustrates an important point: Our schools can make progress.
Finally, CMSD has a policy pending to recognize and compensate teachers when student achievement shows improvement. The teacher incentive pay plan (CMSD TIPP) will take place over four phases. Incentive pay will be awarded to teachers, assistant teachers and certified staff based on improvements in their schools' state ratings. The first payments are expected to be made in December 2019 for performance during the 2018-2019 school year. This program, if approved in June, will provide local monetary incentives in addition to existing state incentives.
We believe this program will improve morale, help the district retain quality teachers and focus more intently on the critical relationship between teacher and student.
As the school district continues its search for a new leader, it is important for the community to embrace the possibilities rather than succumb to disillusionment.
It really is the only path forward.
1. Possumhaw: All along the river LOCAL COLUMNS
3. Marc Dion: Where I live: Fall River, MA, Home of Lizzie Borden NATIONAL COLUMNS
4. Editorial cartoon for 3-25-19 NATIONAL COLUMNS