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Local schools make the state grade

The State Board of Education released its “report cards” for Lincoln County Schools and Lincoln Charter School last week, and many local schools received high marks.

Those grades must be taken with a grain of salt. They don’t provide a complete picture of student achievement, of the teacher that takes the extra time to help a child who’s having difficulty mastering a subject, of the leadership a young man or woman student-athlete gets from their coach, of the hours put in by administrators to manage and organize their schools the best way that they can.

What those grades from the state do show, however, is the indelible link between poverty and measures of achievement. That’s not to say that students from low-income families can’t go on to do great things — they can, and will. But the affects of poverty on grades, test scores and future outcomes can’t be denied.

Lincoln County is home to 11 Title I schools, which are institutions that receive additional federal funding “to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards,” according to the U.S. Department of Education website. Eight of the nine Lincoln County Schools facilities that received “C” grades from the state are Title I schools, though only one of those 11 Title I schools didn’t meet growth measures, which track student advancement through the academic curriculum year by year.

Questions about the effectiveness of the Title I program as its currently structured aside, these state grades may be contributing, in part, to some of the academic issues at the local schools that seem to struggle on these evaluations year after year. Students may not be able to say what their school’s grade was, or even care, but they almost certainly know their school has a reputation, whether that reputation is positive or negative. Presenting accountability data on the same scale that teachers use to grade students might be the simplest way, but it’s probably not the best way.

Although the presentation of the data might be problematic, a problem that goes beyond optics still exists. The educators who go above and beyond to help disadvantaged students are owed a debt of gratitude. The ultimate goal of our society should be creating the conditions that those families that are in poverty are able to lift themselves up out of it. Until that day, the link between low academic performance and poverty will remain a troubling mark on our national education system.

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