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OPINION: Not all statistics tell the truth

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By Kenny Fogle

If you depend on statistics to help you decide what is real and what is not, then I hope you are also someone who does extensive research before you make your final conclusion. I remember years ago, Pistol Pete Maravich was scoring above every other player in the country in college basketball. Just going on that stat, you would think he was the best player in the game. Dig a little deeper and you find his father was the coach and he was the only player designed to shoot the ball. Happens all the time in little league, and on occasion in other levels of sports.

This is just one example of how you cannot always rely on one source of information. My target today in this train of thought is public, private and charter schools. Since the legislature in Frankfort is planning on addressing the education issue this term and each of these schools are on the menu, it would be derelict of us to allow this to happen without some debate and discussion.

A few weeks back DuPont Manual in Louisville was named the best public school in Kentucky along with a number of others in Jefferson County. It got me to thinking. What makes them so special and what does our local schools need to do better to get on this list? We don’t stand a chance. First of all, several schools in the state are either labeled a magnet school where they take only the best and brightest and some others simply limit students with special needs or send them to another school where they are better equipped to teach them. With just that information alone, which schools would you think would score the highest on state and national tests and go on to succeed in college? The ones that pick and choose who they allow in their school, or the ones that take anyone who happens to come through the door, straight A’s or D average? Special education students have even greater challenges, but in schools they are graded and evaluated the same and included in all statistics that rate the success or failure of a school.

Enter the new notion that charter schools will be the answer. Not knowing the outcome of what Frankfort plans to do, I cannot say what a Kentucky charter school will look like or how it will work, but looking at what is going on nationally, it seems likely the charter schools and the magnet schools will be close cousins. The ratings are designed to be high for these schools and based on that alone, they will be a huge success. How can they fail?

Charter schools will also be run more like a business and as such employees, such as teachers, will be subject to a different set of corporate rules with less protection and most likely less pay. Again, we don’t know what Kentucky plans, but this has been the case elsewhere.

Currently, we have a public school system that works. I know, I graduated from Nelson County High School and I apologize to no one for my education. I could have done better, but that was me, not the school. We do have problems. Teacher pay could be better in order to attract the best and retain those we have. Overcrowding is an issue. Keeping up with technology is a concern. Yet we own our schools. We elect people to the school board who are our representatives and are accountable to us as voters, parents and citizens.

Years ago, I coached a basketball team that had way too many players. So the school divided them into two teams. The best players were on one and I got the rest. Guess which team went undefeated and which one struggled?

Our schools belong to us. Pay attention and be involved. You can bet the politicians and special interests are.