By Jim Bailey
For The Herald Bulletin
Anderson Community Schools has been taking a bad rap in recent years. High dropout rates. School closings. Kids transferring to other school corporations. Some idiot bringing a gun (albeit unloaded) to school.
These diversions tend to obscure the fact there is still a whole lot of learning going on in the local public institutions. And some of it has produced competitors on a national level.
Start with Anderson High School’s Rube Goldberg team. Rachel Fuller, Mercedes Chambers, Stephen Carl, Shelby Jones, Skyler Parrish, Michael Ake, Adam Scott, Anna Gustin, Samantha Roy, Stone Robbins, Destiny Andrews, Evelyn Rangel and Regan Couch comprised the AHS team as it participated in the national Rube Goldberg contest for the second straight year.
Taking a simple idea and making it as complicated as possible might sound farcical to some, but the engineering knowledge gained is a solid foundation for the working world of the future.
Then there’s Joe Kirkpatrick.
The Highland Middle School eighth-grader is competing in his third National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. He’s made quite a career of outspelling the area’s best young spellers ever since elementary school, and it appears only his advancement to high school will give other kids a chance to see the nation’s capital in a competitive situation.
Our granddaughter LeeAnn has gone to school with him since their days at Tenth Street Elementary; she’s not a bad speller herself, but she readily concedes to Joe in that department. LeeAnn and Joe’s twin sister Elli have been close friends for several years as well.
Joe’s academic abilities go far beyond spelling words, LeeAnn points out. The last she heard, he had never made less than an A on his report card.
Much of ACS’ bad reputation has come from below-average results on standardized tests such as the state ISTEP exam and the SAT college entrance test. The problem here is that these results reflect not just the superior students taking the tests but the averages of all those taking them. And in an urban setting, much greater numbers of disadvantaged students with nonexistent home lives and profound learning disabilities counterbalance the students who are constantly demonstrating promise of becoming the leaders of the next generation.
No Child Left Behind? A worthy goal, perhaps – but maybe not totally realistic. For those who start the race 10 or 15 yards behind the others it’s anything but a level playing field. They are playing catch-up before they even get started.
But that shouldn’t denigrate the educational experience being enjoyed in the Anderson Community Schools by students such as Joe Kirkpatrick and the Rube Goldberg team. Their avenues for learning are right there without having to travel elsewhere for an education. And for the most part a dedicated faculty of teachers and coaches are ready, willing and able to give them the stimulus they need to succeed at the highest levels.
Jim Bailey’s column appears on Wednesday. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.