Of course poverty is an obstacle to education. Of course it is, the smug "no excuses" mantra of public school-bashing politicians notwithstanding. The notion that with competent teaching a poor child from an environment of sensory and intellectual deprivation and educational barrenness should achieve at essentially the same level and pace as an affluent, literacy-immersed counterpart has never been anything but a class-action insult.
Does that mean a poor child absolutely cannot perform at the highest educational levels? Of course not. There are too many inspiring success stories of people who have overcome high and humbling obstacles to do just that. What it does (or should) remind us is that the field is not level, that the education of at-risk children involves teaching kids who are just getting into the game when others are off to a considerable head start.
But when a school is struggling even within the subset of schools teaching lots of high-risk children, then room for excuses really does shrink substantially.
That's the position seven Muscogee County School District schools find themselves in this year - the same number, as education writer Mark Rice reported, similarly identified three years ago.
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Specifically, Jordan and Spencer High, Baker Middle, and Davis, Georgetown, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rigdon Road elementary are among 246 Title I schools the Georgia Department of Education ranks as its worst performing in terms of academic achievement. Title I designation means at least 40 percent of a school's students come from what the Census Bureau defines as low-income households.
In Georgia, that's a pretty sizeable subset: Almost three-fourths of the state's 2,267 public schools are designated as Title I schools, a stat that underscores a demographic we should already know -- this is a poor state.
To rank among just 246 schools at the bottom of that index is alarming indeed. If there's a mitigating factor, it's that the ranking is over a period of three years, and just in the last year the district adopted new reading and math curricula. Also, as noted in the earlier report, the state DOE report does not include data from the most recent school year, which saw graduation rates at both Jordan and Spencer increase significantly.
None of which changes the evidence that some Muscogee County schools obviously have a serious problem with the education of poor children -- even more of a problem, at least statistically, than other Georgia schools teaching large numbers of poor children. That doesn't bode well for anybody.
CORRECTION: Thursday's editorial included two inaccurate references to Rep. Stacey Evans, who helped create the Zell Miller Grant for technical college education.