Shift the needle to improvement

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Yes, the numbers are bad. The good news: Beloit is finally getting serious.

THE LATEST FIGURES from the state's school report cards have been released and, really, we didn't learn much we didn't already know.

In this region, the schools that have been performing well continued to perform well, and schools that have been challenged continued to be challenged.

Most critically, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction release showed the School District of Beloit still ranked well below state averages and as a district mostly falling below expectations.

There are two factors everyone should remember: (1) the numbers are from last year, not today, and (2) the new administration, which came in with a mandate for change, is not accountable for these numbers.

ONE MORE THING: Miracles do not happen overnight, so it's naive to hope next year's figures suddenly will show Beloit has become one of highest performing districts in Wisconsin. Seeing the needle move significantly in a positive direction, though, is the goal.

It's also why the community should have an open mind about the effort to create a public charter school program in cooperation with the University of Wisconsin system. There is no magic answer to fixing what ails education in Beloit, so attacking the problem on more than one front may make sense and perhaps could hasten the day when the community acquires a better school reputation.

There's a place in Wisconsin for experimentation like the charter, and for public open enrollment and the state's choice, or voucher, program.

WHAT EXISTS NOW is not acceptable, which is a proposition upon which we assume all stakeholders can agree. Building a strong future requires turning out generations of achievers, and school is where that happens.

Let's reiterate the obvious: This is not a job strictly for administrators and teachers. The most important educators in any child's life are mom and dad. Kids who come from solid homes where learning is important arrive at school ready to perform. Otherwise, school personnel are challenged with doing their best to remediate issues that occur outside the school buildings. That's not an impossible task, but it does add a very difficult burden to the education process.

We urge community members to do their part, both in helping struggling families and by holding the education system to a higher standard of performance. The annual embarrassment that comes with these state reports cards must change.

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