At Wednesday morning’s breakfast where the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program was pitched to community leaders, Brownwood Superintendent Reece Blincoe mentioned the high quality of public school education offered to local youngsters - not only those in the Brownwood system, but also in each of the other six Brown County districts.
This year’s accountability ratings released by the Texas Education Agency found that four county school systems - Brownwood, Early, May and Zephyr - are “recognized” when only about 30 percent of those in the state are ranked as high. In addition, 15 of the county’s 23 individual school campuses - that’s almost two-thirds of them - are either exemplary (the highest possible level) or recognized when only about 30 percent can claim that achievement statewide.
I promise: No more statistics. It’s safe to keep reading. But it’s important to establish the evidence that proves such claims are more than mere boosterism or salesmanship.
These accountability classifications are a lot like income tax brackets. They have to draw the lines somewhere, and if you’re $1 under the line, the IRS loses. If you’re $1 over, the IRS wins.
Blincoe offered an example from a district he worked for previously where an incorrect answer on one question, on one test, by one student resulted in the school’s being given the lower rating instead of the higher one. And this year, it’s safe to say the test scores of a handful of students may have been the difference in several schools being a rung lower on the ladder than they might have been otherwise. Perhaps it worked the other way, too, and if it did, congratulations to that student for coming through - not only for himself or herself, but also for the school.
The number of weekends left in the summer vacation before classes open for the fall semester are dwindling. Most Texas schools will resume class on Monday, Aug. 25, and if not that day, then sometime during that week. Football, volleyball and band practices have already begun. And in the weeks and months ahead, the students and teachers aren’t the only folks on campus who will be working hard.
You must have noticed how much construction has been under way around our schools this summer. For Brownwood, it’s been a three-year process after the February 2005 bond issue was approved by voters. That work is coming to a conclusion, scheduled by the end of the year, but renovation is still under way at Brownwood High and Woodland Heights Elementary.
Voters in the Bangs school district passed a bond issue of their own, and their students have a new high school and remodeled middle school in store. An open house at the high school campus is planned Sunday, Aug. 17. It will be a proud day for the city and residents of Bangs.
Meanwhile, contractors remain busy remodeling Early High School and building a new facility for Early Elementary School. Early will also have a new home for the Longhorn football team as a modern stadium is nearing completion in time for the coming season. Foundation work is also under way for the much-anticipated “big room” adjacent to the stadium.
The bottom line in education, of course, is the success and performance of students. A school district doesn’t have to have the best facilities, the newest technology or the most comfortable surroundings to turn out motivated, well-prepared and well-rounded graduates. But all those trappings certainly make it easier, because the students can take pride in what they are doing, and can recognize how much investment their community is willing to make in them and their future.
The fact that the academic gains documented above have been made while construction has been ongoing at so many of the county’s campuses illustrates how dedicated today’s students and educators are to their tasks. In the weeks and months ahead, however, the jackhammers and ladders will be packed up, and the construction will be completed. All of us will be able to enjoy what we have collectively created for our young people and the teams of professionals to whom we have entrusted an important part of this nation’s future.
That future looks bright, and each resident can smile with the understanding that each of us has played a part in supporting a community of education that not only looks like it cares, but actually does so.
Gene Deason is editor of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Friday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.