- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:


Aug. 10

Decatur Daily on test scores and education:

The pressure on students and teachers to produce high test scores is both unrelenting and understandable. It also glosses over the immense challenges educators face. As teachers welcome students on this first day of classes at Decatur City, Morgan County and Hartselle City schools, they are not dealing with testing statistics or ACT Aspire percentages or aggregate scores. They are dealing with individual children with unique needs.

There are many experts who question the validity of standardized tests and suspect the intense pressure to raise them is counterproductive. Their point is interesting and may one day ease policies that seek to quantify academic success, but it is largely irrelevant in the current educational climate.

As of now, test scores are important. Pressure on Decatur City Schools teachers to increase them comes from the state Legislature, from the Decatur City Council and from a superintendent who was hired with a single mission: raise test scores.

City officials routinely blame test scores for stagnant residential growth. Prospective residents - especially high-income families - will not move to Decatur as long as Decatur test scores lag, they say. And they may well be right, although most education experts explain that high poverty levels invariably yield low test scores. The test scores are a symptom of economic stress.

Nonetheless, Decatur City Schools understandably has decided it must do everything possible to raise aggregate scores. They are determined to increase the percentage of students who do well on the ACT Aspire.

That goal is admirable, but on this first day of school it clashes with a different reality.

Today, Decatur City teachers aren’t dealing with aggregate scores and abstract theories. They are dealing with individual students with unique needs. Sixty percent of those students are at or near poverty level. So even as officials are obsessed with statistical analysis of ACT Aspire scores and their consequences for the community, teachers today will begin a one-on-one relationship that reveals both the gifts and challenges each student faces.

One student may be from a supportive family, but he is dealing with autism. Another is agitated because her family was just evicted from an apartment. One student may be hungry, and the other can’t overcome the anger that stems from his father being in prison. Some students are bored; others are overwhelmed with insecurities.

And before teachers can even begin preparing their students for the ACT Aspire in the spring, they must meet those more basic needs.

So yes, Decatur City Schools needs to do everything possible to raise test scores. And yes, state lawmakers and city officials need to help them as they pursue the goal. But today, it’s about the all-important relationships that teachers form with their students. Neither learning nor high test scores happen automatically. The first step comes as teachers recognize the unique needs of their students, and go about the huge job of addressing those needs.




August 8

The Gadsden Times on the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board’s proposed beer rule:

Media outlets in Alabama talk pretty regularly about how the craft beer industry has become a major economic force in the state.

While brewing’s economic contribution isn’t quite in the same area code as agriculture or manufacturing in Alabama, it brings a useful chunk of change into the state (and Gadsden benefits from Back Forty Beer Co.).

That’s likely the major reason the Legislature has passed laws through the years to loosen regulations on both the industry and consumers. It took a significant step this year by allowing brewers who make less than 60,000 barrels of beer annually to directly sell 288 ounces of their product to individual customers each day for them to drink off-site.

Leave it to the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, however, to mess with a good thing.

The board at its next meeting Sept. 28 will consider a new rule that would require brewers to take down the names, addresses, ages and telephone numbers of those who purchase their wares. The proposal states the information would be “subject to verification by the ABC Board.”

No one from the ABC Board has yet answered the operative question - “Why?” - but it shouldn’t take a Ph.D. in physics to zero in on the reason. The board wants to make sure people are following the law, and we don’t have a problem with that. The limit is 2.25 gallons of beer a day, and that’s a lot of suds.

However, we question why officials in a state that advertises itself as friendly to business, especially small ones, want to add a regulation - honestly, it’s a hoop to be jumped through - that brewers will have to expend cash and employee hours to comply with.

We share the concerns expressed by some beer aficionados about what the ABC Board will do with the information. Without any accompanying specifics, “verification” conjures up notions of agents bearing warrants knocking on doors and checking out refrigerators to see how much beer is on hand.

Above all, brewers fear customers will try to avoid the inconvenience by going to grocery stores, where they can purchase multiple carts full of craft beer if they’re so inclined and have the cash, thus negating the legislation the industry fought so hard for.

The ABC Board says it will “consider public input” on the proposal before the September meeting. We imagine its inbox is bulging right now, and we predict that pressure will result in this proposal being junked in favor of something more reasonable.

We’ve said before, Alabama’s system of regulating the sale of alcoholic beverages, with its emphasis on control, is an outdated mess that defies current societal norms and should be junked. Right now, though, the ABC Board is still in charge, the 288-ounce limit is the law and we think laws should be enforced. Just do it realistically.




August 10:

The Cullman Times on local-level politics:

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump rightfully command a lot of attention during the election season as they battle for the presidency.

Nevertheless, on a truly accessible level, local municipal elections are less than two weeks away. The men and women campaigning for those positions are neighbors you may know, or certainly people you can actually meet and talk to about issues in your community.

What’s different about politics and leadership at the local level versus the grand national scale?

The campaigns of Clinton and Trump are steeped in views that somewhat reflect national party politics, rely heavily on voter polls, and frankly cover a wide screen of issues on both the national and international horizon.

Down home, in Cullman or Fairview, for example, a political officeholder has a small audience but is more closely judged. We know whether roads are being resurfaced, if crime rates are ascending or declining, if businesses are opening or closing. We know if the parks are trim and safe or if the budget is healthy or frail. We know because we can attend the meetings, read The Times, and we can make an appointment or bump into a mayor, council representative or school board member at a local cafe or ballgame.

That’s the beauty of local politics and the challenge of holding local office. Americans take great pride in their nation, but nothing is more personal than the quality of the local community.

Aug. 23 marks the arrival of local election day. A host of mayoral, council, and Cullman school board seats are in contention. That’s a healthy sign in our towns and cities.

The election features a mix or incumbents, political newcomers, and a few former officeholders who are coming back for another bid at service. Some seats were also vacated by individuals who served a term or two and decided to move on to other endeavors.

We encourage everyone running for office to be devoted to open meetings and keeping their constituents informed on issues, whether the news is good or bad. Open government builds strong communities and allows the public to have direct hand in solving issues, which is how American politics was intended by our Founding Fathers.

Seeing so many people choose to seek election is a sign that local residents care about our towns, cities and schools. Local candidates can be approached by anyone who is interested in the welfare of the places they call home. Take time to talk to candidates, become informed and vote on Aug. 23. These are people you know.



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