As regular readers of The Turner Report may recall, I wrote a few weeks ago about the Joplin R-8 School District becoming "Accredited with Distinction" by the Missouri State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
It is a big deal. It means that your school is one of the top schools in the state of Missouri.
That was not the way the story was treated by The Joplin Globe. Globe editors did put the story on page one where it belonged, but the editors and reporters selectively chose facts that made it appear that the accomplishment really wasn't that big of a deal.
First, the reporter interviewed officials from two other school districts, Webb City and Carl Junction, which have also been accredited with distinction but received the designation earlier. That made it appear as if everyone else has already done it, why did it take Joplin so long?
That is the way editors can take even one of the most positive stories the R-8 School District has had in recent years and put a negative spin on it. Why were only officials from Webb City and Carl Junction interviewed.
Joplin's accomplishment was put into perspective today by a news release from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Only about 25 percent of the state's schools were accredited with distinction and only a handful from this area.
It would have been just as easy for Globe reporters to have interviewed officials from the Carthage or Neosho school districts, which did not receive the award.
What does it mean to receive the "Distinction in Performance" designation? According to the news release, "The annual recognition is based on school districts' performance on MAP test scores, ACT scores, attendance and dropout rates, and other measures of academic performance during the last school year."
Commissioner of Education Kent King said, "This award is unique and demanding, because it requires districts to demonstrate growth and progress across the board. Districts must show improvement or high performance at every level- elementary, middle and high school. It isn't good enough to excel in a single area.
The Turner Report generally features news from a four-county area, Jasper, Newton, Barton, and McDonald.
Jasper County had three schools receive the recognition: Joplin, Carl Junction, and Webb City. The Carthage, Jasper, Sarcoxie, and Avilla school districts did not make it.
In Newton County, only one school, Westview, was recognized. Neosho, East Newton, Seneca, and Diamond did not qualify.
The McDonald County School District was recognized, but the Lamar, Golden City, and Liberal school districts in Barton County did not qualify.
So congratulations should go to the teachers, students, administrators, and parents in the Joplin, Carl Junction, Webb City, McDonald County, and Westview school districts. That doesn't mean that students in the other school districts are not receiving a quality education. But it is definitely a good sign for the five school districts which achieved the honor.
Especially when you consider that the McDonald County School District receives less per pupil than any other school district in the state.
Now, back to The Joplin Globe for a moment. My original thesis remains the same. Being accredited with distinction should have been written as a positive story for the Joplin R-8 School District, not out of any phony sense of cheerleading for the local school, but because that is exactly what it was. A later story talking about other schools that have been accredited with distinction would have been a far better way to get the Globe's point across. At the same time, it could have been shown that most school districts have not reached that level. That would have been a completely accurate depiction. Apparently, that was too much to hope for from the area's largest newspaper.