- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

April 6

Morning News, Savannah, Georgia, on state takeover of schools being last resort:

Hodge Elementary Principal Yvette Wells said that it’s not unusual to find fifth-graders who start the school year performing on a second- or third-grade level.

Why?

Are some teachers at Hodge socially promoting students? If so, then the school is suffering from self-inflicted wounds.

Or are their other reasons why students who are unprepared are being promoted, leaving it up to other teachers to play catch-up, and eventually to middle school and high school, where problems are magnified?

Hodge is one of five Savannah-Chatham County public schools on Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed takeover list, should Georgia voters approve a constitutional amendment next year that gives the state the authority to take temporary control of chronically failing schools.

The others here include Haven and Brock elementary schools and Mercer and DeRenne middle schools.

Advocates of the amendment argue young Georgians must be rescued from failing schools to improve their chances of getting good educations and succeeding in life. Opponents fault the state for providing inadequate funding and not supporting existing improvement efforts.

Voters will have a year to make up their minds whether the creation of a state-run Opportunity School District becomes a reality. One thing the measure wouldn’t do, if approved, is take over all of Georgia’s failing schools at once.

A failing school is one that has received failing grades on the state accountability measure called the College and Career Ready Performance Index, or CCRPI, for three consecutive years. The measure limits the total number of schools that could be in this district statewide to 100. Right now, 133 schools are on the list.

Also, the schools that are taken over would remain under state control for no less than five years and no more than 10 years. So theoretically, they could be back in local hands after the state attempts to fix whatever it deemed broken.

All five local schools mostly serve students who come from poor families. It’s instructive that local educators seem to have a pretty good handle on the challenges.

For example, Principal Wells said many of the parents of children who attend Hodge work multiple jobs, struggle to pay bills and have trouble with unspecified “social” issues. At Haven Elementary, interim Principal Dionne Young mentioned social and behavioral issues that create classroom disruptions. To raise test scores, these principals and others have tried to focus on getting more individual help for students who need it, which is what’s necessary.

In fact, it seems to be working at DeRenne Middle School. Its CCRPI score has jumped from 48.7 to 57.4 in two years. It’s just 2.6 points shy of reaching 60, which is the cutoff score for failure.

Public schools can’t pick their students. They must take the children who come through the doors. But while those students are on school time, principals and teachers can control what happens and influence outcomes.

Instead of fearing state control - a last resort that no one should want - local educators must double down while they’re in charge. Having the right attitude is critical.

“Failure is not an option here,” DeRenne math teacher Terry Mobley said. That must be the mantra for all the five local schools on the takeover list.

Online:

http://savannahnow.com

___

April 8

The Telegraph, Macon, Georgia, on decades of observation paying off:

Once upon a time, not too many years ago, area leaders were busy visiting cities like Chattanooga, Tennessee; Greensboro, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; and others, trying to figure out their secrets for revitalization. When we weren’t visiting them, we had them come here to spread their wisdom. What kind of magic did they have in that bottle? In Chattanooga, it was the aquarium and the ancillary parks and businesses that followed. In Greensboro, they turned a sleepy town of 74,000 in 1950 to a bustling hub of commerce filled with 144,000 people in 10 years. Today, it has grown to almost 300,000. Charleston began its rise from the ashes by rebuilding its past with the leadership of its mayor, Joe Riley Jr., who has served the city for 40 years.

We can look at projects, attractions and businesses, but it all begins with people. Now we look up and find that 11 new projects are being shepherded through the recruitment process at the Macon Economic Development Commission. Some are existing businesses looking to expand. Others are looking for a new home. All this in the past month.

This is good news, much better news than it would have been a decade ago. There was a time when company representatives would need to contact area recruiters before investigating an area. Those days are gone — long gone. By the time the reps contact Pat Topping, vice president of the EDC, they know as much as they need to know. While these inquiries are still in the earliest of stages, activity breeds activity, and Macon-Bibb County has a good record of capitalizing on opportunities. While Topping and the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority are in a “what have you done for me lately” kind of business, we shouldn’t forget their batting average. Kumho Tire, though it took a while, is just the latest success story. We don’t mind waiting on an almost half-billion dollar investment.

The leadership of the Industrial Authority is solid - so solid there were no nominations Monday for officers, meaning Cliffard Whitby will remain chairman and Robbie Fountain vice chair. All we can say is keep it up. It’s time for other cities to ask for our secrets.

Online:

http://www.macon.com

___

April 7

The Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle on Rolling Stone magazine:

Here’s how accountability should work in the real world: Professional misconduct occurs, the person or people responsible are disciplined or fired - or placed in the criminal justice system, as the case may be - and the organization tries to continue with the wisdom of having learned from its mistakes.

Here’s how accountability appears to work at Rolling Stone magazine: Professional misconduct occurs, nothing happens to the person or people responsible, and the organization continues with the hope that outsiders eventually will forget wrongdoing ever occurred.

That’s pretty much the magazine’s response to a scathing report by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. It probed into the magazine’s handling of the discredited University of Virginia fraternity gang-rape story it published last year.

The school’s report found the magazine neglected to follow “basic, even routine journalistic practice” in publishing the story of a student identified only as “Jackie.” She claimed she was brutally assaulted by seven men for three hours at UVA’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house.

Those involved in writing, editing and fact-checking the 9,000 word “A Rape on Campus” story, incredibly, still are employed by the magazine. The activist reporter who penned it, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, and Will Dana, the magazine’s top editor who let it go to print, stayed put. So did the line editors and fact-checkers who should have vetted the largely fictional tale that ended up sparking protests against the fraternity, a police investigation, the temporary suspension of all fraternities at the school and a nationwide debate about campus sexual violence.

All of that, plus a credibility meltdown for a national publication, and nobody gets fired? Really?

“What would Rolling Stone in its heyday write about an institution that screwed up unbelievably, damaged people’s lives, but punished no one?” tweeted John Bresnahan, the Capitol bureau chief of Politico.

If Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner can’t bring himself to cut ties with the very people who have dragged his national magazine’s already-dubious journalistic reputation through the mud, we can assume he thinks the harsh wording in Columbia’s damning report is punishment enough.

Or perhaps he actually wanted Jackie’s story, horrific as it is, to be true. The same could be said for Erdely, who has said in interviews she specifically set out to find a college rape “victim” whose story could generate widespread attention.

What else besides ideological blinders could cause a reporter to ignore the “two-sides-to-every-story” rule of Journalism 101? She never verified the identity of the attacker, so she never confronted him with the allegations. She never spoke to Jackie’s friends who allegedly talked with Jackie immediately after the attack. She didn’t even give the fraternity a fair chance to respond.

Even the Columbia report notes that the magazine’s editorial staff continues framing the error as a well-meaning but misguided attempt to believe the word of a rape victim, who Wenner has described as “a really expert fabulist storyteller.”

Says the report: “Rolling Stone’s senior editors are unanimous in the belief that the story’s failure does not require them to change their editorial systems.”

It’s as if the magazine has learned nothing from all of this. Can anyone - should anyone - ever believe another word Rolling Stone prints as long as the journalists responsible for the UVA rape debacle remain on its staff?

Online:

http://chronicle.augusta.com

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