When a number doesn’t reflect your accomplishments

Humans love rankings. We want the teams we cheer for to be Number 1, our hometown the cleanest, our grilled cheese the cheesiest. Americans certify BBQ and chili contest judges so we can be confident who makes the best in any contest. Rankings may demonstrate things that can be measured with known metrics, but some may have so many variables that the numbers assigned don’t begin to capture the true worth of what is being ranked.

Recently U.S. News and World Report released a ranking of high schools. The top ranked schools naturally heralded their place at the top of the list, and for good reason. They have surely set and met high educational goals for their students that should be reflected in a scoring system.

The top 10 public high schools in Georgia are located in urban areas; only three are outside the Atlanta area. That really shouldn’t be surprising- urban communities have more money, more resources, and more means to attract the most sought-after teachers.

Those schools who don’t sort out at the top of the list shouldn’t be overlooked for what they provide for their students, families, and communities. The one that my daughters, their husbands, my husband and his brothers attended, Washington County High School in Sandersville, ranks 328th out of the 426 public schools in Georgia, according to the magazine. The school’s students and teachers are more accomplished than the ranking indicates.

What factors could contribute to WaCo’s (as locals often call it in football chants) landing in the bottom portion of the list? Does having 78 percent of the student body classified as economically disadvantaged pose challenges? Sure. A low income home might mean there is no home computer, internet access, or transportation to the local library to complete homework or use the computers available there. These students may be working to help support their family, leaving less time for schoolwork. Many may miss meals when not at school, and hunger impacts the ability to learn. The local food bank makes every effort to provide easy-to-manage foods for students when they are home, but the need is great when families struggle.

The U.S. News and World Report ranking data report 867 students enrolled in 9th-12th grades at the public school. The private school in town, Brentwood School, founded in 1969, where tuition this school year for one high school student is over $7,500, has 100 students in grades 9-12. While smaller classes can have benefits, being in a large economically, racially, and culturally diverse school setting has benefits inside and beyond the classroom.

The differences between the two school options are stark. But those differences don’t mean the students at Washington County High School lack ambition, talent, or success. Last spring more than 50 percent of the 214 students graduating from Washington County High School received their diploma having earned a grade point average of 91.5 or higher. School Board Chair Chris Hutchings said, “The Washington County School District is proud of its accomplishments in educating the students of our community. Our graduation rate is nearly 10 points higher than the Georgia average at 93%. Dual enrollment is up. Nine of the 214 students in the 2021 graduating class received Associate Degrees, and 12 had been accepted into the military upon graduation. Twenty had already received scholarships among the 86 that had been accepted into college.”

Behind every one of those high school diplomas presented in May are success stories past and future. The Washington County High School Class of 2021 follows some  exceptionally talented graduates including:

      • 2021 Olympic Gold Medalist
      • Four-time Emmy Award winner
      • Award winning playwright
      • Medical and industrial research scientists
      • Television news producers and journalists
      • Doctors, lawyers, accountants
      • WNBA and NFL players
      • National Guard and armed forces volunteers
      • Business owners
      • Faith leaders
      • Elected officials
      • Leaders in civic and nonprofit organizations
      • Teachers, counselors, school administrators

The rankings produced by U.S. News and World Report are a snapshot of what schools can and do accomplish. Being in the bottom portion of the rankings doesn’t make any student  in Washington County less intelligent or capable, nor any teacher less able to inspire or improvise to help a student succeed. The ranking is just one ranking.

 

Pulling the bandaids off in rural America

What rural communities lack in infrastructure is becoming very clear to elected leaders at all levels. The question that must be answered is whether those needs will be addressed and when.

The lack of fast affordable internet service in rural communities is now holding back teachers, students, and parents. Teachers don’t have access to broadband in order to log on and hold sessions with students. Students often don’t have internet access or a computer.

If you are looking for some good stocks to consider, this might be a good time to invest in the paper industry. Schools are making printed packets of work for families because online education in rural America isn’t an option.

Rural communities don’t have the luxury of Instacart and similar shopping and delivery services. There is no option to have groceries delivered to your front door. If driving to a store is the only option for rural households, the urge to stock up beyond a week’s worth of groceries is understandable when frequently used items are on store shelves.

Businesses trying to shift to online work face the same challenges as schools. A technology company I have relied on emailed customers two weeks ago offering not only online platforms for remote work, but refurbished laptops for employees to use while they work from home. The question remains whether there is internet access at the employee’s home.

While social media and news outlets fill space with ideas for streaming movies and television programs, rural America remains on the sidelines. There is no streaming of entertainment options without high speed internet. Libraries are closed and ball fields are vacant. Choices are so limited now.

The bandaids offered to rural America have been pulled off. Lessons are being taught about how we can better serve rural communities across our country. If the lack of resources in rural America are not addressed when we are able to paddle less frantically, the failure of elected leaders to respond nimbly and effectively should direct every voter’s choices.

How We Have Failed Since September 11, Redux

First posted here on September 10, 2014

How We Have Failed since September 11

Tonight President Obama will address the nation about ISIS and any actions that we may take in response to the horrific murders of Americans and innocent civilians at the hands of terrorists.

Tomorrow there will be an observance in my community, and many others, to honor the thousands of lives lost to hate and terrorism, and to support the families and friends who knew someone they loved would never return home again.

Since September 11, 2001 we as a country have talked a lot about being kinder to one another and being a better country. Yet 13 years later this is what consumes us as a country:

  • fighting about allowing two consenting adults of the same-sex to legally marry each
  • failing to take care of the thousands of veterans who have defended our country, many of whom returned with horrible wounds from the Middle East since September 2001
  • allowing private corporations to decided which forms of legal birth control they will cover for employees through company based health insurance because some corporations should have the same privileges as churches
  • granting corporations the same rights as citizens so businesses can pour money into elections and our representatives’ pockets
  • making it harder for citizens to exercise their right to vote
  • subsidizing corporations with huge tax breaks while their employees working full-time never earn enough to break the poverty barrier
  • denying the hard facts of science because profits should come before cleaning up the mess we’ve made of the entire planet
  • deporting children
  • complaining about failing schools while slashing teacher pay and testing our children to death
  • sitting by silently while racism and sexism are displayed proudly
  • being sure we can take our assault rifles into the grocery store
  • we pay for and support violence on playing fields, in the movies we watch, video games we buy, music we listen to, and television shows we watch, but we react with horror when students are sprayed with bullets in their classrooms, women are drug from elevators by their hair, students are bullied, children and women are raped as well as being forced into prostitution
  • too many among us are convinced that their brand of faith should be followed above all others, and if necessary the rights of other citizens should be denied because they choose to worship differently, or not at all

We absolutely should remember and honor the victims of September 11th’s violence. I’m just not convinced we are a country that is a better reflection of the democratic values and freedoms which terrorists intended to destroy 13 years ago.

 

The needle hasn’t moved much since last year

This was originally posted last year on September 11. We continue to be a badly broken country in too many ways. No photo today.

How we have failed since September 11, 2001

Tonight President Obama will address the nation about ISIS and any actions that we may take in response to the horrific murders of Americans and innocent civilians at the hands of terrorists.

Tomorrow there will be an observance in my community, and many others, to honor the thousands of lives lost to hate and terrorism, and to support the families and friends who knew someone they loved would never return home again.

Since September 11, 2001 we as a country have talked a lot about being kinder to one another and being a better country. Yet 13 years later this is what consumes us as a country:

  • fighting about allowing two consenting adults of the same-sex to legally marry each
  • failing to take care of the thousands of veterans who have defended our country, many of whom returned with horrible wounds from the Middle East since September 2001
  • allowing private corporations to decided which forms of legal birth control they will cover for employees through company based health insurance because some corporations should have the same privileges as churches
  • granting corporations the same rights as citizens so businesses can pour money into elections and our representatives’ pockets
  • making it harder for citizens to exercise their right to vote
  • subsidizing corporations with huge tax breaks while their employees working full-time never earn enough to break the poverty barrier
  • denying the hard facts of science because profits should come before cleaning up the mess we’ve made of the entire planet
  • deporting children
  • complaining about failing schools while slashing teacher pay and testing our children to death
  • sitting by silently while racism and sexism are displayed proudly
  • being sure we can take our assault rifles into the grocery store
  • we pay for and support violence on playing fields, in the movies we watch, video games we buy, music we listen to, and television shows we watch, but we react with horror when students are sprayed with bullets in their classrooms, women are drug from elevators by their hair, students are bullied, children and women are raped as well as being forced into prostitution
  • too many among us are convinced that their brand of faith should be followed above all others, and if necessary the rights of other citizens should be denied because they choose to worship differently, or not at all

We absolutely should remember and honor the victims of September 11th’s violence. I’m just not convinced we are a country that is a better reflection of the democratic values and freedoms which terrorists intended to destroy 13 years ago.

Hands On Science

Science Night
Science Night was last night at Creekside Elementary School. Exhibits included lots of hands-on opportunities for children and their parents. The room was humming with children moving from one table to the next. All the exhibitors were so enthusiastic. As I loaded this photo I noticed the woman in the back of the picture squatting down to eye level with a child who might be about four.

My grandson Chase, in the red sweatshirt, was looking forward to touching snakes like he did last year. His sister Ella, in the dark fuchsia jacket, wasn’t as enthusiastic about them.

How we have failed since September 11, 2001

Tonight President Obama will address the nation about ISIS and any actions that we may take in response to the horrific murders of Americans and innocent civilians at the hands of terrorists.

Tomorrow there will be an observance in my community, and many others, to honor the thousands of lives lost to hate and terrorism, and to support the families and friends who knew someone they loved would never return home again.

Since September 11, 2001 we as a country have talked a lot about being kinder to one another and being a better country. Yet 13 years later this is what consumes us as a country:

  • fighting about allowing two consenting adults of the same-sex to legally marry each
  • failing to take care of the thousands of veterans who have defended our country, many of whom returned with horrible wounds from the Middle East since September 2001
  • allowing private corporations to decided which forms of legal birth control they will cover for employees through company based health insurance because some corporations should have the same privileges as churches
  • granting corporations the same rights as citizens so businesses can pour money into elections and our representatives’ pockets
  • making it harder for citizens to exercise their right to vote
  • subsidizing corporations with huge tax breaks while their employees working full-time never earn enough to break the poverty barrier
  • denying the hard facts of science because profits should come before cleaning up the mess we’ve made of the entire planet
  • deporting children
  • complaining about failing schools while slashing teacher pay and testing our children to death
  • sitting by silently while racism and sexism are displayed proudly
  • being sure we can take our assault rifles into the grocery store
  • we pay for and support violence on playing fields, in the movies we watch, video games we buy, music we listen to, and television shows we watch, but we react with horror when students are sprayed with bullets in their classrooms, women are drug from elevators by their hair, students are bullied, children and women are raped as well as being forced into prostitution
  • too many among us are convinced that their brand of faith should be followed above all others, and if necessary the rights of other citizens should be denied because they choose to worship differently, or not at all

We absolutely should remember and honor the victims of September 11th’s violence. I’m just not convinced we are a country that is a better reflection of the democratic values and freedoms which terrorists intended to destroy 13 years ago.

 

Bid Day

The Friday Photo
August 15, 2014

Bid Day, Georgia College
Yesterday I had to meet someone at Georgia College in nearby Milledgeville. I snagged a great parking spot facing the campus quad shaded by tall trees and surrounded by beautiful buildings.

I happened upon sorority Bid Day announcements, a ritual that is taking place across college campuses now.

I’d never seen a Bid Day because my alma mater, Guilford College, doesn’t have Greek organizations.

A throng of young women stood together while shrieks and cheers erupted among them. They were standing in groups with matching t-shirts and tank tops while the newest members pulled their new shirt over what they had worn to the quad. Women around them hugged and smiled.

They were a homogenized group-slender attractive young white women, most with long hair, standing on suntanned legs below short shorts. They looked excited in their uniform colored groups.

I wondered about the young women who didn’t get their first choice,  who couldn’t participate because of the cost (it is easily thousands with dues, clothes for social events, etc), who thought they were too heavy, not pretty enough, too dark skinned, had no legacy to claim as leverage, or who didn’t make it to Bid Day at all.

A social worker told me she once worked shifts for the suicide/crisis phone line in Athens during Bid Week at UGA.  The phones rang off the hook with young women who were falling apart due to the outcomes of rushing a sorority. What a hard way to begin a college career.

I hope leaving the quad with a much coveted t–shirt won’t keep those young woman from really stretching themselves well beyond the confines of their sorority house and Greek life.

A win for Georgia

20131107-115102.jpgGuest Post by Rob Teilhet,  former state legislator
and Executive Director of Georgia Conservation Voters.
He works as a private practice attorney at The Teilhet Firm.

 

Any community is made better when it is served by quality public officials. And in order to have quality public officials, we need quality political candidates.

Whether Senator Jason Carter wins next year or not, the State of Georgia isalready better because he is a candidate. Governor Deal will be a better candidate for having to face him. And we as Georgians will be well-served by an election that is competitive, as opposed to a foregone conclusion.

When the outcome of a political campaign is known before it even takes place, the quality of public service plummets. If you doubt that, look at the Unites States Congress. With few exceptions, incumbents in Congress easily dispatch only token opposition, and return to Washington with their minds not on their constituents or their districts or the impact of public policy, but rather on the nonsense that passes for debate in DC these days. If they had to compete for our support, and were held accountable for their results, we would be better served.

I couldn’t care less who his grandfather is. What matters to me is that in the decade I spent in Georgia politics, Jason Carter proved to be one of the smartest and most genuine people I came to know, with real concern for how decisions made in Atlanta impact people and their families. As they get to know him, the people of Georgia are going to like him. And they will listen to him. And the quality of the campaign and its impact on all of us will be better as a result.

Proverbs 27:17 says that as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. No matter the outcome, Georgia’s political iron will be a lot sharper next year as a result of today’s announcement.

For that, we will all be better off. And for that, I am thankful.