LNLC not a failing school

Published 12:42 pm Tuesday, July 9, 2013

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

If you’ve ever spent any time at Pelham’s Linda Nolen Learning Center, I think you’d be hard-pressed to consider it a “failing school.”

Last month, LNLC was the only one in Shelby County to be included on an Alabama Department of Education list of “failing schools” as determined by the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013.

According to criteria outlined in the Accountability Act, LNLC “meets the criteria as a persistently low-performing school.”

LNLC serves students from across Shelby County who have significant special needs. Every time I have ever been to Linda Nolen, I have seen a dedicated group of teachers and administrators giving each child the individualized attention they deserve.

The school is specifically designed to cater to and serve students who otherwise would be unable to function properly in a traditional school environment.

“Our goal is to help them make progress, to help them move from point A to point B, not holding them accountable to the same standards as all other students,” Shelby County Schools Superintendent Randy Fuller wrote in a response to LNLC’s labeling as a “failing school.”

“We felt like the Linda Nolen Learning Center is an excellent school, and it is one that the majority of parents have willingly chosen as the best learning environment for their child,” Fuller added, noting many students at Linda Nolen face “medical issues that require round-the-clock care and students with emotional and behavioral disorders.”

Fuller didn’t hesitate to call LNLC an “excellent school,” and I agree with him whole-heartedly.

I can’t think of many school systems with a separate school campus designed specifically for special-needs students. Because of the individualized attention each student receives, I would not hesitate to call LNLC a major benefit for Shelby County residents and their children.

For purposes of the Alabama Accountability Act “failing schools” criteria, all schools in the state are judged on an equal level. Because the LNLC student population is composed almost exclusively of students with special needs, it appears on paper that the school’s educational offerings are not up to par.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Neal Wagner is the city editor for the Shelby County Reporter.