The Anniston Star

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November 21, 2014

Editorial: Deciphering the numbers of Anniston's schools

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Posted: Thursday, August 28, 2014 6:45 pm

Every Calhoun County school is different: in size, in demographics, in performance. We so often want to compare them — “My school is better than your school” — that logic can dissolve in the conversation.

Oxford isn’t Anniston. Jacksonville isn’t White Plains. Private schools aren’t public schools. The differences, even the positive ones, make a difference.

The perfect illustration is in Anniston, whose public-school struggles are well known. Widespread, across-the-board improvement of Anniston’s schools is critical for the city’s future. Measuring the improvements being made under Superintendent Darren Douthitt takes skill and understanding.

On Thursday, The Star reported on a significant change in Anniston — a slight increase in the student population of its schools. Keep perspective in mind. In cities like Oxford and communities like White Plains, student increases aren’t front-page news. They’re seemingly every-year occurrences.

Anniston, for reasons large and small, isn’t that fortunate.

The city’s population has stagnated and trended downward for decades. Anniston’s class sizes have followed suit, and the Board of Education is (slowly) making plans for consolidating its bloated number of elementary school campuses. That’s one reason why this year’s slight increase — 340 students — over last year is worth examination.

The unanswered question: what’s fueling the increase?

We’re not that bothered by solving that riddle. Our bigger concern is the performance, not the size, of Anniston’s schools. There’s every reason to believe that as the city’s schools improve, so, too, will their populations methodically rise.

That said, it’s worth repeating Douthitt’s quick analysis of the increase. “Kids are coming in from private schools — kids who were going out of district,” he told The Star. “I think it’s just that people have more confidence in us based on changes we’ve made in the last few months ... changes in the culture here that people are feeling.” On that, we’ll agree. It’s change long overdue.

Schools aren’t spectacular because they’re big. That praise comes when they turn out graduates who’ve benefited from well-rounded, modern educations. It comes when schools are magnets for families and industries. It comes when schools contribute to a city’s success, a role Anniston desperately needs its schools to fill.

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