The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


August 11, 2010

Schools need a little help from home

Milton High School failed to meet its adequate yearly progress under Pennsylvania's version of the federal No Child Left Behind because one student did not show up for the standardized test.

Well, four students, actually. But if any of the four had come to school on testing day, the school would have passed.

Ninety-five percent of students — and 95 percent within certain state-defined subgroups of students — must take the test for the school to satisfy benchmarks. In this case, 66 of the 11th graders classified as socially-economically disadvantaged took the test. Sixty-six out of 70 is 94.2 percent and that is not good enough.

Is it fair to blame the school? What could administrators have done? Arranged wake up calls? Drive to the students' homes and pick them up?

Perhaps we need to pull a classic — the Nathaniel Hawthorne. Dig out the scarlet letters and shame someone.

It works with tax scofflaws and deadbeat parents. Why would it not work now?

There are four groups of adults — parents or other caregivers — who failed to make sure that their teens made it to school on test day.

Their indifference or incompetence has embarrassed an entire school. Hard-working students who showed up and tested well have to deal with the stigma of going to a school on a government watch list.

"I am very disappointed in this because our children did great," Milton director of curriculum Deb Mathinos said.

Can you feel the frustration? Those who showed up did fine, but the school still gets a black mark.

It makes sense to set a participation standard. Otherwise, schools could skirt accountability by discouraging poor test-takers from attending on the appointed days. For the approach to work, there has to be a base line expectation about the support schools receive from home.

If students do not bother to darken the doors of school, then we know where the blame belongs.

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