Education grows along with county

Those of us fortunate enough to hear Dr. Joe Morton, State Superintendent of Education, speak at last week’s Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce luncheon were in for a few surprises.

The first surprise came as Morton shared statewide test results of the Alabama Reading Initiative: fourth-graders in Alabama raised their reading proficiency test scores by eight points in two years, the largest increase in the history of the national test. In 2005, Alabama students placed 12 points below the national average, and in 2007 Alabama students tied for the 16th highest reading test scores in the nation.

I have all the confidence in the world in Alabama students, teachers, and administrators, and most who know me would tell you I’m very much a “glass half full” sort of fellow. But the dramatic result the Alabama Reading Initiative has had in such a narrow space of time was a surprise to me.

Morton also shared very encouraging news coming from the Alabama Math and Science Teaching Initiative and the Alabama Distant Learning Initiative, both of which can help change student learning in Alabama and the face of the state in the process.

A second surprise at the luncheon came as Shelby County Superintendent Randy Fuller shared that when school starts in Shelby County this fall, a projected increase of more than 700 students should make the system the fourth largest in the state based upon the number of students enrolled.

Here’s hoping the dramatic results Dr. Morton shared this past week and the substantial need to continue and expand education in Shelby County serve as motivators for us to continue making student learning a primary focus. Doing any less will punish students, parents and employers for countless future generations.

And that should be no surprise to any of us.