EDITORIAL: Carrot and Stick

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We are pleased the Mississippi Department of Education chose to reward Houston Upper Elementary School academic achievement.

A story on Page One of this newspaper explains the Champions of Change designation and how much it should mean to Houston School District and both our city and our county.

We would like to point out some of this change can be laid at the feet of PACE that has financed rewards for students who make good grades. It’s funny what the promise of an Ipod, ice cream or even a $100 bill can do to motivate a student to do better.

We think this is a good idea. We want to encourage all area schools to look for any and every reason to recognize academic achievement and urge students to do better in school. These type of rewards are a means to induce positive peer pressure in the classroom and hopefully inspire others to do well in school.

And state test scores not only reflect how good a school is in educating our children, they are a key factor in attracting new jobs and businesses to a community.

Like we said earlier, we are pleased with the idea of holding out a carrot to those who seek to achieve and build school test scores.

But this newspaper also urges local districts not to forget the stick.

There is another story on Page One that says GED testing will soon get much harder. Students who want to call it quits will find it hard to succeed in life.

The academic achievement of a student is directly linked to their potential dropout rate. It should come as no surprise that those who drop out typically don’t do well on state tests.

Local schools suffered under this year’s testing criteria in both daily attendance and drop-out rates.

Average daily attendance is a critical number in securing state and federal dollars to pay for teachers and programs. And our state has laws that require children of school age to go to school. Dropping out without going through the proper channels is illegal.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize kids won’t learn if they are not in school.

We urge city and county officials to make sure our truant officers and judges are doing their job. That stick needs to be used to make sure parents are punished when their children don’t go to class.

If truant officers – and that includes local policemen and deputies – aren’t enforcing the law, they need to be reminded how important this job is to our community. If judges and prosecuting attorney’s won’t back up these men and women who are enforcing the law, they need to be reminded they play a role in this puzzle, too.

It takes a lot of people to make our communities better places to live and our students and parents better citizens. It takes a carrot and a stick.

If everybody does their job – teachers, parents, administrators, students, law enforcement and judges – our schools will improve.

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