There are 138 school systems in Alabama. All 67 counties have one, then there are another 71 local community systems. All are different. All have different resources and different challenges.
They range from Mobile County with an enrollment of 52,741 to Linden with 462. The citizens of Mountain Brook pay enough taxes so that local support for each student is $9,528. At the other end of the spectrum are 12 systems, mostly county, that have less than $2,000 in local support per student.
Given such factors, there is not a politician in the state who is foolish enough to say that schools in Marion County should equal those in Mountain Brook, or those anywhere in the Black Belt should be just like their counterparts in Huntsville. Lanett is not Hoover. Thomasville is not Homewood. Jackson County is not Bullock County.
Of Mountain Brook’s 4,320 students, only 23 off them receive free or reduced lunches. There are 174 students at Marengo County’s A. L. Johnson k-12 school, 163 of them are free-reduced lunches. In other words, our communities and their schools vary greatly.
The same is just as true when we compare Alabama schools to those in Massachusetts or New Jersey or Wyoming?
Yet we do this constantly.
We look at standardized test scores for the state of Alabama and weep and wail that they are not as good as those in faraway states. While we readily acknowledge the differences among school system across Alabama, we do not apply the same logic to the United States.
Last March the governor asked the state superintendent to look at how math is taught in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Virginia, New Jersey and Wyoming because they have high math scores than Alabama does.
It makes absolutely no sense.
Comparing Alabama to Wyoming is about like wondering why a dump truck gets less miles per gallon that a Prius. There are less than 92,000 public school students in Wyoming. Students there get 76 percent more funding each than their Alabama counterparts. They have the lowest pupil-teacher ration in the nation.
Thinking we can compare ourselves to them is ignoring reality. But we do it to try and justify another attempt to force the next “education reform” on our educators.
We’re hammering square pegs into round holes and hoping no one is watching.