Morgan County teachers, students “exceeding expectations” • Dave Belton, columnist
Every year, I write a column to summarize the past school year. Because SAT results come out so late, it normally comes at the end of the first nine weeks of the next year.
The SAT is important for two reasons. First, it is the single most important obstacle our students have to get into the college of their choice. Second, it is the single biggest statistic employers (i.e. Stanton Springs) and families use to decide where to locate.
This year’s SAT score of 1477 was much better than Georgia at 1452 and a little off the nation at 1499. After a meteoric rise of 113 points over two years, 1477 was five points off our best-ever score of 1483 in 2011, and far better than all other years before.
The result? We had a record 82 percent acceptance rate at UGA and Georgia Tech, even better than our best-ever 79 percent last year. Three years ago, only four students went to UGA and none to Tech. This year a stunning 23 of 28 were accepted. Overall, an amazing 70 percent of seniors went to college. That is remarkable.
Morgan County High School was ranked in the top 9 percent of the nation and 7 percent in Georgia by The Washington Post. This was our fourth year on this prestigious list, due in large part to our vast array of college-level courses. Our IB pass rate is up 50 percent this year, and AP is up 33 percent. We had a record number of IB diploma winners, we tripled our number of AP scholars to a record 34, and we had our first-ever National AP Scholar. Our 86 percent graduation rate was 13th best in the state, again putting us in the top 7 percent of Georgia. A record 240 students graduated last year.
Morgan County Elementary School averaged 94 percent in the CRCT and scored above 90 percent in 12 of 15 categories. MCMS averaged 90 percent and scored above 90 percent in seven of 15 categories. They both beat the state in every category.
Our budget this year is 9 percent lower than five years ago. It would have been 12 percent lower if the state hadn’t saddled us with unexpected mandatory healthcare premium increases. Our cost per child ratio has fallen from $9,047 to $8,171. We’ve returned the millage rate to the rollback rate for six years in a row. Our teachers have silently suffered a 6 percent pay cut, and staff has been slashed by 10 percent.
Yet uninformed naysayers still compare our teachers to ditch-diggers and attack their “bloated” salaries. These ludicrous “big-brush” hecklers misguidedly paint our teachers with the same colors as union-led protesters in the Midwest.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The vast majority of our teachers are not in a union, and time and again they put students first by sacrificing thousands of non-paid, off-duty hours mentoring our children. Our teachers are making less money than before, their responsibilities and standards are constantly increasing, and the state has tripled their workload by changing their curriculum three times over the past four years. Like the private sector, our teachers are doing more with less – and they are doing it with superlative results.
Philosophers in their ivory towers listen to talk radio and assume that what’s happening in Chicago and Milwaukee is what’s happening in Morgan County. Well, they’re wrong. Any objective analysis or first-hand observance shows that our poor, rural county schools are exceeding expectations and getting more efficient.
It has never been harder to be a teacher than right now. There is way more scrutiny and pressure to do a good job than when your teachers were teaching you. Yet attacks continue as people look for scapegoats to blame for the nation-wide problem of bad parenting. Blessed with good parenting and excellent teachers, Morgan County should be proud of our better-than-expected school system and should expect a large portion of the future Stanton Spring families and businesses to locate here. The economic benefits are obvious to all but the most rabid detractors.
Dave Belton Morgan County BOE, 5th District
Printed in the October 25, 2012 edition