Wake County Public School System superintendent Jim Merrill chided a reporter last week when he asked Merrill about subpar test scores following a series of speeches praising the high graduation rates at Knightdale High School.
We’d like to think Merrill was teasing. He’s surely smart enough to know that the school system’s focus on a good statistic wouldn’t prevent questions about less-than-stellar numbers elsewhere.
We agree that it is important to celebrate successes. And we are doubly glad that the education news celebrated by the school system is personified in the good performance at an eastern Wake County school.
We are equally sure that school officials will celebrate their successes, then move quickly to examine their weaknesses and develop plans to address those shortcomings.
When Merrill did address the reporter’s question, he was quick to point out that the numbers were just a single data point and he cautioned against reading too much into them.
Of course the same logic applies to strong numbers like the graduation rate at Knightdale High School. The success Merrill and his staff celebrated represents a single data point. Sustained success must be the goal, regardless of the measurement being considered.
If it’s a report card grade, an SAT performance or a graduation rate, the school system and, by fiat, the teachers and school administrators, want to see improvement on a consistent basis.
That kind of movement would indicate that the direction school leaders are taking is the right one.
So in the wake of celebration over good graduation numbers or in the teeth-gnashing over bad report card grades, let’s be careful not to overreact to single data points. It doesn’t help in the long run, much like it doesn’t help for the superintendent to be glib in response to a sincere query.