Monday, September 19, 2005

This Is Unbelievable!

In an effort to save money, while shortchanging kids R.A. Hubbard High School of North Courtland, Alabama, doesn't offer hardly any traditional electives. Because of scheduling, nearly all students who want to earn a diploma are required to take numerous Junior ROTC courses: (emphasis added)
In a rare victory for a military recruit, McKinley Harris will wear his hair in the cornrow style of braids popular among young black males and females.

It will be a short-lived victory — one year in a potential five-year Army Junior ROTC career in which policy prohibits males from wearing braids.

The policy also prohibits females from decorating their hair with items such as beads. Most students at R.A. Hubbard are subject to JROTC rules because they must enroll in the program to earn enough credits to graduate.

Hubbard Principal Denise Stovall decided that McKinley, a 13-year-old eighth-grade student, and his classmates do not have to conform to the military's rules. Once they enter the ninth grade, they will have to conform, because they will be in official JROTC classes instead of enrichment courses.

"When a child is being forced to cut his hair like he is going off to fight for his country, that's ridiculous," McKinley's mother, Demita Harris, said. "If they had something else, he would take it. I asked the principal about another math class, and she said they don't have (enough) teachers."

Another student, William "Trey" Miller III, said he had three JROTC classes on his schedule last year. He took one class during the first semester and two in the second semester. Miller is the unit's S-1, a member of the commander's staff.

Trey's mother, Della Miller, said although the program is a positive one, she wishes the school offered more than numerous JROTC classes. The Army consistently awards the program, one of two in Lawrence County, its highest rankings.

"I went to the counselor and told her I'd rather have my son take something that will prepare him for college, and she said she would consider my request," she said.

"However, he is still in JROTC. My daughter graduated a couple of years ago, and it was the same dilemma. She had to enroll in Calhoun Community College to take advanced courses. All of that was an added expense on the family, because we had the burden of getting her back and forth."

Elective classes at R.A. Hubbard are scarce, and there are few classes above what the state requires a student to have to graduate. The school has one math teacher for students in grades nine through 12. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools cited the school for having a teacher who does not have a math certificate teaching eighth-grade students.

SACS also cited Hubbard for a non-certified chemistry teacher. The accrediting agency cited the elementary portion of the school for having a teacher out of field, and recommended that the elementary school place a stronger emphasis on fine arts, which SACS inspectors said would "expand learning possibilities for all students."

Parents like Harris have complained about the JROTC-heavy curriculum at Hubbard.

It's almost like a two-for-one deal for Lawrence County Schools. The Army pays half the salaries for the two instructors, and the school board pays the other half plus fringe benefits.

Lawrence County high schools are on a block schedule with four classes a day. The two JROTC instructors each teach one class per block. It means Hubbard has eight JROTC classes per day.

The other electives are agribusiness (three classes daily), band and physical education. Students who want to earn an advanced diploma can take Spanish I and II and pre-calculus.

Larger Lawrence County schools such as East Lawrence High offer classes in office procedures, music appreciation, marketing, creative writing, Southern writers, mythology and Spanish III.

In contrast, Decatur High School offers electives and advance classes such as drama, Spanish III, French, AP English, calculus, chemistry, physics, biology, art, advanced painting and drawing, forensics, ceramics and crafts, graphic design, robotics, graphic production, photography and video production.

Secondary Supervisor Johnny Yates said removing JROTC from the schedule would not be a way to provide Hubbard's students with a wider variety of classes.

"(Hubbard doesn't) have the number of teachers to offer Latin or other electives," Yates said.

Hubbard has about 120 high school students.

Lawrence County has seven high schools. Only the two largest — East Lawrence and Lawrence County — offer electives, Yates said.

"I think, basically, because of the (limited) teaching units, they don't have the capability of teaching all that they would like to have," he said.

The Alabama Department of Education pays for teachers at each school based on enrollment 20 days after Labor Day. Hubbard does not have enough students to earn the teachers it needs to fill its schedule, which means the school board must pay for the extra teachers with local funds, or assign federal units to the school.

Hubbard earns 16.33 teacher units (teachers) from the state, and has 20.83.

Della Miller said the problem is twofold. She said if the school system properly enforced its attendance zones, then Hubbard would have enough students to earn the teachers it needs and the finances to properly operate.

She said Lawrence County is wasting its resources by operating too many high schools. She said a smaller number of schools would allow administrators to add higher math and science classes and more electives.

"I'd rather they put a (merged) school on Highway 20, and let the children have an opportunity to have a good education," Miller said. "We're handicapping our children. We're putting a facade up, making them think everything is going to be all right."

Hubbard's enrollment is more than 95 percent black, another fact that led Miller to say it is not an ideal situation.

"When you go to school and there are only black students, how are you going to learn to relate to other people?" she asked.

Lawrence County Schools spent more than $3 million to renovate Hubbard and merge it with Courtland High. Miller said it was a waste of money.

"Nobody uses economics and strategy," she said. "They are back in the 1960s, still living in yesteryears. Everybody resists change, but change is inevitable."
According to School Matters, the percentage of economically disadvantaged students in Lawrence County is 53%. The Lawrence County public schools website is here.

Heh. I wonder if the fact that this school's students are mostly from poor African American families has anything to do with the shortage of college preparatory and elective classes at Hubbard?

Simply put, all students, regardless of race or family income, deserve the opportunity to obtain a public high school education that will prepare them for post-graduate studies.
This week's Carnival Of Education midway will open here Wednesday. Carnival submissions are due by 9:00 PM (Pacific) Tuesday, September 20th. Send them to owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net.

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