for 'Joe Clark'
NOTE: Sussex Beat is a mix of news, analysis and commentary by Eric Magill, publisher of Sussex County Online.
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After releasing the latest Delaware Student Testing Program results, Gov. Thomas R. Carper and acting Secretary of Education Valerie Woodruff focused on the improvement in the scores of 3rd and 5th graders.
They should have focused on the disaster awaiting our 8th and 10th graders, especially here in Sussex County, where most don't have the skills they will need to confront an ever more challenging world in a few years.
The test scores of our 8th and 10th graders here in Sussex County reminded me of the 1989 movie Lean on Me, a true story based on a principal named Joe Clark (portrayed by Morgan Freeman).
Clark was called on to save a decrepit northern New Jersey high school from state control by raising the percentage of the school's students meeting basic skills requirements from 38 percent to 75 percent in just six months. The school made it -- barely.
If it's hard for you to imagine that there could be a school at which only 38 percent of the students meet basic skills requirements, you should take a look at the latest state test results of 8th and 10th graders in Sussex County.
Released on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 1999, the results paint a scary picture of our 8th and 10th graders' current reading, writing and math skills.
In Sussex County, 64.5% of 8th and 10th graders don't meet the Math standards and 61.0% of the 8th and 10th graders don't meet the Writing standards. Reading is a little better with "only" 44.96% of 8th and 10th graders failing to meet standards there.
Those 8th and 10th graders will face a world of challenges in a few years that most will be ill-equipped to deal with unless there is a dramatic turnaround in their academic skills.
That's scary, if you believe as I do that reading, writing and arithmetic are the keys to unlocking the many opportunities that present themselves to us during our lifetimes.
Gov. Carper and Woodruff both said the state now knows which districts need to improve and which are succeeding.
I wonder, though, if they truly grasp the seriousness of the situation for our 8th and 10th graders in Sussex County. Right now, those students need a Joe Clark to walk into their lives.
You can voice your opinion on the test results of Sussex County students in the Sussex County Online forum. Just follow the links below to make your voice heard and your vote count:
Below is a look at the percentage of each Sussex County school district's students meeting, exceeding or failing to meet the state's academic standards in Grades 3, 5, 8 and 10. You can also see a statewide breakdown on the Delaware Department of Education web site at http://www.doe.state.de.us/press_release/014DOE99.htm.
The Delaware Department of Education web site is full of information at http://www.doe.state.de.us. You'll find everything there from student test scores to school profiles.
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