International test scores were released this week. Soon we will begin to hear that familiar tagline on the nightly news,”U.S. students lag other nations.”

Here are three things that you need to know but will not get from the mainstream media:

1) Out of the world’s 35 developed nations — the same nations that our test scores are compared to — the U.S. has the second-highest percentage of children living below the poverty line. Only one other country has a higher percentage of impoverished kids: Romania…..Yes, Romania.

2) Research overwhelmingly proves that poverty is linked to student performance: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/12/opinion/the-unaddressed-link-between-poverty-and-education.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

3) In the U.S., all children are guaranteed the right to be enrolled in public schools. No exceptions. This is a foundation of our democracy. Also, all students who are enrolled in American public schools are required to take these tests — even children with special needs. And, yes, all scores are officially reported: the good, the bad and the ugly. Yet, we compare ourselves to places like China, where hundreds of thousands of students are turned away from “public” schools and only the highest test scores are officially reported.

As you can see, this is not apples-to-apples.

In fact, it’s more like apples-to-corrupt dictatorships.

These flawed international comparisons are what led to the current era of high-stakes standardized testing that we now live in.

It started out as “No Child Left Behind”. Then they changed the name to “Race To The Top”. Now they are getting ready to change it again. “The Common Core State Standards”, they are calling it, and it will come with the same, punitive tests as before.

Who are “They”?

“They” are the politicos, the hucksters, the Beltway think-tankers, the left and the right; the oligarchs, the bureaucrats, the blue-bloods, the elite, the “smartest people in America.”

“They” are not the auto technician who works fifty hours a week while finding the time to coach Little League and attend PTA meetings.

“They” are not the single Mom working on two jobs and a nursing degree who takes great pride in the high-poverty neighborhood public school where her children attend and whose teachers she adores, only to see them constantly threatened and labeled by “them” as failing.

“They” are out of touch, yet they are imposing their hair-brained schemes on our children.

Enough is enough.

Call your state legislator today and ask him or her to put a moratorium on high-stakes testing.

After all, we are still a democracy, right?

At this point, I honestly don’t know the answer to that question.

However, I do know that you and I have the power to find out by communicating with our elected officials.






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The MHS Academic Team. From left: Scott Ellis, John Price, Pearson Kelly, Chris Cross and Kyler Drury.

This group of teenagers might have just started a revolution.

Last weekend, the Meridian High School Academic Team came in 2nd place at a statewide competition.

Here is an excerpt from the official press release:

“Congratulations to the Meridian High School Academic Team!! On Saturday the Academic Team finished in 2nd Place at the Madison Central Fall Classic. The Wildcat Academic Team defeated Columbia Academy, Tupelo High School, and Jackson Academy twice before losing to St. Andrews Episcopal in the championship final.”

Now, here is where the press release ends and my words begin….

Jackson Academy, a mostly white, low-poverty private school with a stellar academic reputation, was defeated not once but twice by MHS, a mostly black, high-poverty public school with a not-so-stellar academic reputation.

Most people believe that schools like Meridian High are academically inferior to schools like Jackson Academy. You know it and I know it. This is what most people think.

Well, the MHS Academic Team just proved most people wrong.

The federal government, state legislature and state department of education tell us that Meridian High School is mediocre by giving us a “C” rating.

The MHS Academic Team just proved all of them wrong.

For decades, the national media, D.C. think tanks and blue-blooded political elites have fed the American people an orchestrated, false narrative: Public education has failed. This narrative has been exacerbated in recent years by ideologues who promote the false, self-destructive notion that anything having to do with government, aka public education, is bad.

Yet, in one day, these five young scholars proved all of them wrong.

This is not boasting.

This is a call for truth.

This is not a claim of public school superiority.

This is a call for community.

Let the revolution begin.


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Last night I attended the Meridian stop of Interim State Superintendent Dr. Lynn House’ s statewide Common Core tour. After months of personal indecision over whether or not “The Core” will be a good thing, I’ve finally come to a conclusion: same ol’, same ol’.

This is not the radical change in education that many on both sides of the debate are claiming it to be. In fact, it’s the same ol’ flawed practice of using a single test as the end-all-be-all measurement of student performance that we’ve seen since “No Child Left Behind” was ushered in more than a decade ago.

The only thing changing is the test.

It will be harder. Much harder.

Yes, even though our current state reading test for fourth graders is the seventh most difficult 4th grade reading test in the nation……


And, yes, even though our current 4th grade Math test is the 23rd most difficult 4th grade Math test in the nation(ahead of states like California at 26th, Texas at 38th and New York at 45th)……….


….the Magnolia State, through Common Core, is getting ready to make these tests even harder.

What a terrible idea.

Expect test scores to plummet across the board, just as they have in the states that are already seeing results.

High-poverty children — already branded as “failures” by the twisted, yet legislated, name-calling of school accountability labels — will be hurt the worst.

Just as troubling, still, is the fact that Common Core is a double-down on the mythical idea that a school’s performance can be measured by a single test.

I was hoping, perhaps foolishly, that we might see some new “tests” with Common Core; tests that would measure “skills” like sportsmanship, compassion, civic involvement, kindness, abstract creativity and teamwork.

I was wrong.

In the real, day-to-day world of public school classrooms, businesses and life, such skills are vital — no less than being able to read, add and subtract.

But, then again, the politicians and policy wonks who hatch and promote ideas like No Child Left Behind and Common Core don’t live in the real world, do they?

Same ol’, same ol’.











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Name That School

Business and Technology Courses:

Advanced Programming
Advanced Software Topics
Computer Applications
Desktop Publishing
Digital Media Design
Digital Photography
Digital Video
Graphic Design
Innovative Applications Using Technology
Financial Technology
Multimedia Projects
Programming I – Beginning
Programming I – Foundations
Programming II
Research Using Technology’s Information Tools
Web Page Design
Word Processing

Fine Arts — Visual:

Art 1
Art II
Painting I
Painting II
Drawing I
Drawing II
Ceramics I
Ceramics II
AP Studio Art
AP Drawing Portfolio
AP 2-D Design Portfolio
AP 3-D Design Portfolio
AP Art History

Fine Arts — Performing:

Theater I
Theater II
Theater III
Theater IV
Theater Production
Oral Interpretation
MHS Band, Level I, II, III, IV(Marching Band)
Instrumental Band, Level I, II, III, IV(Concert Band)
General Music
Jazz Band
Freshmen Singers
MHS Concert Choir
Guitar 1
Guitar 2
AP Music Theory

Foreign Language:

Spanish I
Spanish II
Spanish III — Honors
French I
French II

General Electives:

Driver’s Education
Family Dynamics
Health Education
Physical Education
Team Sports

Language Arts:

Compensatory Reading I and II
English I
English II
English III
English IV
Honors English I
Honors English II
Honors English III
Honors English IV
AP English IV
Creative Writing
African-American Literature
Short Stories
Twentieth Century Literature
Public Speaking


JROTC Leadership and Education Training Program I, II, III, and IV


AP Calculus
Honors Calculus
Advanced Algebra
Honors Pre-Calculus
Honors Trigonometry
Honors Algebra II
Algebra II
Survey of Mathematical Topics
Algebra I
Transition to Algebra
Compensatory Mathematics I and II


Intro. to Biology
Biology I
Biology II
Physical Science
Human Anatomy and Physiology
Chemistry I
Honors Chemistry I
AP Chemistry
Honors Physics
AP Biology
Earth Science

Social Studies:

Mississippi Studies
World History From The Age of Enlightenment to the Present
Honors World History From the Age of Enlightenment to the Present
AP European History
US History (1877 to Present)
AP US History
Honors Economics
US Government
Honors US Government
AP US Government and Politics
Law Related Education
Minority Studies
Humanities I
Humanities II

Ross Collins Career and Technical Center:

Architecture/Drafting I
Drafting II
Automotive Service I
Automotive Service II
Business Fundamentals(Marketing I)
Marketing II
Career Pathway Experience
Construction I(Electrical)
Electrical II
Construction I(Carpentry)
Carpentry II
Collision Repair I
Collision Repair II
Culinary and Related Foods Technology I
Culinary and Related Foods Technology II
Health Science I
Health Science II
Information Technology
Teacher Academy
Welding Technology

— Average non-elective class size: 19

— 52% of teachers hold a Master’s degree or higher.

— No tuition.

— Not a college.

— Not a charter school.

— This is Meridian High School, a traditional Mississippi public High School.


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A new year is about to begin, along with a new attempt to create publicly funded, privately managed charter schools in Mississippi.

Despite the legislature’s failed attempt to pass a charter school bill in 2012, which was due in large part to stiff resistance from educators and parents from across the state, charter proponents will be at it again in 2013.

Indeed, unlike our neighbors in Alabama, whose elected officials actually listened to their constituents’ well-founded objections to the return of separate and unequal public education to the Yellowhammer State, Mississippi’s political class has taken the opposite approach by essentially saying “To hell with what the people think”.

The facts surrounding charter schools remain unchanged, and you can find plenty of them here, here, and here.

School choice has existed in Mississippi for over a decade now.

Teach for America really wants charter schools in our state.

Wal-Mart and Microsoft really want charter schools in every state.

Charter schools do not offer real, honest competition.

And, yes, two essential questions still linger unanswered:

1) What happens to the kids who don’t get in to the charter school?

2) Why not strengthen all of Mississippi’s public schools?

I urge you to ask our elected officials in Jackson these questions.





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A few words on Newtown.

Last Friday morning in Newtown, Connecticut, twenty innocent children were murdered in cold blood. Six of their teachers were also killed.

I have spent a lot of time on this blog bragging about the students and teachers who populate our nation’s public schools. I have done so with anger towards those who wish to tear down our teachers and students.

But, today, I am not angry.

Today, I am simply heartbroken, deflated and disappointed.

How little and petty my feelings are compared to what those parents are going through in Connecticut right now. How utterly clueless I am….

Yet, still, I grieve.

Every school teacher and every administrator in America would have done the same thing that those heroic staff members did at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Every. Single. One.

Please keep that in mind the next time you hear someone bash America’s schools.

May these names be burned into our collective conscience for many years to come:

Charlotte Bacon, 6

Daniel Barden, 7

Olivia Engel, 6

Josephine Gay, 7

Ana Marquez-Greene, 6

Dylan Hockley, 6

Madeleine Hsu, 6

Catherine Hubbard, 6

Chase Kowalski, 7

Jesse Lewis, 6

James Mattioli, 6

Grace McDonnell, 7

Emilie Parker, 6

Jack Pinto, 6

Noah Pozner, 6

Caroline Previdi, 6

Jessica Rekos, 6

Avielle Richman, 6

Benjamin Wheeler, 6

Allison N. Wyatt, 6

Rachel Davino, 29


Dawn Hochsprung, 47

School principal

Nancy Lanza, 52

Mother of gunman

Anne Marie Murphy, 52


Lauren Rousseau, 30


Mary Sherlach, 56

School psychologist

Victoria Soto, 27


“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us and, therefore, we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” 1 John 3:16






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Something profound took place on Tuesday, November 6th, 2012. It was a true act of civic duty, an authentic exercise in democracy.

It was something that can change history and affect lives. It costs nothing. In fact, all a person has to do is show up.

It was on this day that a friend and I toured our City’s public High School.

Yes, there was also a Presidential election on that day, but a public school tour is no less important, no less dramatic. In fact, a sixty-minute walk-through of your local public High School might have more of an impact on your community than the person or the party who presides from the Oval Office.

To say that public schools are important would be an understatement of the highest degree. Our country has a unique system of instruction, one that has been called “the greatest American idea”. Unlike many of the world’s industrialized nations, our public schools are open to all children; free of charge and regardless of race, religion, income or learning style. They are microcosms of raw democracy; required by law to enroll all who apply and to provide the learning needs of every student — regardless of the space or complexities that are required to do so.

The reader may wonder how in the world a seemingly mundane school tour could be more dramatic than a Presidential election. The answer to this question can be found in the faces of Mr. Abdella’s History class, where we saw the diverse future of Meridian hanging onto his every word with laser-like focus, responding with intellectual comments and challenges that would rival the world’s greatest thinkers.

Indeed, it was dramatic to look into Mr. Berg’s Art class, where students were thoroughly engaged in the abstract creativity that is required of today’s modern, global economy; an economy that is based on scientific understanding while relying on the essential, complementary component of artistic innovation.

And, yes, it was dramatic to hear what was perhaps the most powerful lesson of the day, as Principal Victor Hubbard looked at us at the end of the tour and said, very thoughtfully, “Our students really do love to see visitors from the community.”

This wasn’t my first tour of a local school, but I left with the same, immeasurable impact that always occurs when I see “the greatest American idea” in action. I always tell people about these tours, and I do so with a profound hope that they, too, will visit one of our city’s schools and become inspired.

Inspiration is a powerful thing. It is larger than one person, even if that person is the President of the United States.

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