With the ISTEP scores announced, it was disheartening to see scores below the state average at most Madison County public schools systems. We appreciate that school systems are doing their best to increase the scores, but over the past few years scores have remained static with minute improvement overall in most districts.

We would like to see improvements more quickly. The ISTEP is the only measuring tool of a school system’s performance in teaching children and the signal it sends is one of below average.

Education affects the well-being of the community and also sends a message to potential businesses and residents who plan to locate in the area. Schools will be among the first things looked at, whether people have children or not.

As the county continues to reach out to businesses and boost economic development in the area, school systems that perform above average are going to draw residents. Those performing below average will be in danger of perpetuating low scores because new students won’t be added to the enrollment.

This is an overall view. We applaud some of the success stories of individual schools, such as the one related by Anderson Community Schools Superintendent Tim Long about Anderson Elementary. Here is a school with 93 percent free and reduced lunches, where the poverty rate is high. Still, these students raised their scores markedly in the past two years and the community should be proud of their efforts.

All schools told The Herald Bulletin that they have plans in practice to keep raising scores. These plans seem to be slow moving. Scores go up, but only marginally. There must be a more fundamental issue that schools aren’t addressing.

We fear that teachers are teaching to the test when they should be using their best efforts to instill study habits that will bring about learning. It’s more than about memory. It’s about assimilating and understanding.

More so, we suspect that many of our educational challenges stem from the home environment. We as a community must rally our resources and laser-focus them on underlying deficiencies, be they nutrition, manners or embracing the lifelong value of education.

When ISTEP scores remain stagnant, the first reaction is to teach to the test, which does a disservice to students. It doesn’t identify the reason scores are low, nor spend scarce resources where they are needed most.

We hope there are ways that school corporations can increase the scores at a more rapid pace. It’s not only good for the community, but good for the students. It shows our community is committed to education.

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