As Decatur mobilizes to improve its public schools, it is tempting to forget how good they already are.
Saddled with antiquated school buildings and a strained budget, Decatur City Schools is seeking to provide an excellent education. Sixty-two percent of its students come from low-income households, many with single parents. Administrators and teachers face what should be insurmountable challenges as they seek to make a lifelong difference in students who are struggling with poverty.
It's an impossible task, yet again and again they succeed.
On Wednesday, two Decatur elementary schools — Woodmeade and Frances Nungester — were recognized among the 20 statewide "Torchbearer Schools." The recognition goes to schools that meet federal testing standards despite a poverty rate of at least 80 percent.
How does a teacher convince children to focus on multiplication tables when they are worried about their next meal? How does a teacher convince children to do homework when their parents are stressing over rent or heating bills or car repairs?
The teachers did so, the principals explained, one student at a time. Excellent teachers, backed by supportive administrators, took the time to work through the unique problems — many of which had little to do with academics — faced by their students. They targeted academic weaknesses and focused the resources they could muster to turn them into strengths.
They did so with spectacular success, helping students to exceed academic standards.
Decatur is blessed with talented and determined teachers and with school administrators who are striving to improve the opportunities available to every child. They deserve our praise. They need our support.
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