It is dumbfounding how far some folks will distort the truth so that they can claim they are the only people with the right answers. Basically if the facts don’t fit their pre-conceived narrative, then why bother with them?
I hold in my hand a flier promoting an event at the State Capitol on March 20 at 10 a.m. As best I can tell, the event will be to pray for our children. The flier says, “Come join us in prayer and in truth so that more will gain understanding to make a difference for such a time as this.”
Super. I am a great believer in the power of prayer and think we should all do much more of it.
But it is the two words, “in truth” that cause me pause because the central contention of this announcement is in no form or fashion based on truth. Someone holds up George Hall elementary in inner-city Mobile as a shining example of the evils wrought by Common Core. They point out that this was once one of the shining lights in Alabama education–and then they fell under the spell of Common Core and went to Hell in a hand basket.
They base this charge on data found on the web site SchoolDigger.com, one of a number of school rankings sites. So I visited the site and sure enough, they give George Hall only one star and say that it ranks 559 out of 680 Alabama elementary schools. Unfortunately I could not find rankings going back several years.
(It is interesting that the folks claiming Common Core destroyed George Hall fail to mention that SchoolDigger.com also shows that five Mobile elementary schools have a five star ranking, seven four star and five three star. Since they are all elementary schools in the same system using the same curriculum, why did they not also fall prey to Common Core? But I guess that does not fit their pre-conceived narrative.)
I have probably visited George Hall more than any other school in Alabama over the past decade. I spent a day in one of their pre-K classrooms to see what life is like as a teacher’s aide. I raised $17,000 so they could install showers to be used by children coming from homes where the water has been turned off. I was there in August 2010 when Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary dropped by.
What happened at George Hall beginning in 2004 was remarkable. That was when the school system chose Hall as one of five schools they wanted to turn around. And that’s when Terri Tomlinson showed up as principal. She told me she interviewed 150 teachers and hired 25 of them. For the most part, they were time-tested, experienced educators. And in the early days of this transformation, there was virtually no teacher turnover. This was a key part of their success.
Hall became a show piece as to what an inner-city school can become. They were recognized nationally as a Blue Ribbon school. Alabama designated them a Torchbearer school.
But time waits for no one. Circumstances change. Terri Tomlinson retired several years ago. Most of the teachers she hired retired as well. And especially significant is the fact that the school system redrew district lines and the school got an influx of students who did not have the benefit of experiencing George Hall when they started school.
The neighborhood is aging and school enrollment is down 22 percent in the last five years. Teacher units have also declined,
Yes, the numbers from George Hall these days are not what they once were. But to point to Common Core as the sole reason is simply deceptive and disingenuous. It is shameful that people engage in such, especially considering that they are using children to advance their own political agenda.