Parents should help ensure children's academic rigor

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"Upon the subject of education, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject in which we as a people may be engaged."

-- Abraham Lincoln

Every parent owes it to his or her child to examine the quality of the education being delivered by a school -- whether public or private. An Aug. 18 Wall Street Journal article warned: "New data show that fewer than 25 percent of 2010 graduates who took the ACT college-entrance exam possessed the academic skills necessary to pass entry-level courses. The results raise questions about how well the nation's high schools are preparing students for college."

At Augusta Prep, our mission is to provide a college preparatory education of the very highest quality. This spring, I surveyed the Class of 2006 to see how well Augusta Prep prepared them for college.

FIRST, IT SHOULD be noted that 100 percent of the class attended a four-year college or university, and that every member of the class completed the survey. The findings are astounding, and speak directly to the quality of a Prep education:

- 100 percent of the Augusta Prep Class of 2006 will graduate from a four-year college or university.

- 70 percent of the class graduated from college in four years or less.

- 94 percent of the class has graduated or will graduate in five years or less.

By contrast, the national four-year college graduation rate was only 36 percent (private, 51 percent; public, 29 percent), according to a 2010 longitudinal study by the National Center for Education Statistics.

- The cumulative college grade-point average for Augusta Prep's Class of 2006 was 3.4.

- 84 percent of the class graduated with a GPA equal to or above 3.0.

- 42 percent of the class graduated with a GPA equal to or above 3.5.

According to a 2010 Teachers College Record article, the average college GPA is 2.8.

- 40 percent of the Augusta Prep Class of 2006 graduated from college with academic honors.

- 28 percent graduated with honors, high honors, and/or Phi Beta Kappa honors.

- 33 percent graduated cum laude (2 percent), magna cum laude (19 percent) or summa cum laude (12 percent)

The most common majors for Augusta Prep Class of 2006 were:

- biology or chemistry -- 20 percent;

- Spanish and/or international affairs -- 20 percent;

- finance -- 10 percent.

The most common future plans for the Augusta Prep Class of 2006 include:

- medical school -- 23 percent;

- master's degree or research -- 18 percent;

- law school -- 15 percent.

These findings reinforce a critically important fact: According to a longitudinal study completed by the National Center for Education Statistics, success in college correlates most directly with the rigor of one's high school curriculum, not SAT scores.

STUDENTS MAY NOT want to be challenged academically, but they need to be. To the degree that you can, all parents should ensure that their children are being challenged at every stage of their education.

As British zoologist Jane Goodall aptly noted, "If you really want something, and really work hard, and take advantage of opportunities, and never give up, you will find a way."

(The writer is head of school for Augusta Preparatory Day School.)

Comments (24) Add comment
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just a comment or two
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just a comment or two 08/21/10 - 10:28 pm
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Great column. Don't forget

Great column. Don't forget Westminster Schools of Augusta is as rigorous academically with 100% college placement and other great statistics similar to Augusta Prep . Another solid statistic to analyze is Hope Scholarship retention rates. Also, anyone interested in either of these fine independent schools should inquire through the admissions office for financial aid. Both schools are generous in providing need-based aid.

momster59
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momster59 08/21/10 - 10:39 pm
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Yep, if I had $15,000 a year

Yep, if I had $15,000 a year per child I could spend, I certainly would expect what Mr. Hall is offering. Parents with that sort of money can do a lot towards getting their child into colleges. Unfortunately the average yearly income in this area is only about $38,000 a year, which means that only one child would take about half of the take home salary, leaving nothing to live on.

just a comment or two
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just a comment or two 08/21/10 - 11:03 pm
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Wesminster has a competitive

Wesminster has a competitive honors scholar program for rising 9th graders that makes a Westminster education affordable for a student in an average household income. These schools are looking for socio-economic diversity and both have need-based assistance available for students meeting admissions standards.

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 08/22/10 - 08:07 am
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Government schools have a

Government schools have a different agenda than institutions of education. According to FDR and Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt, we need workers in the factories. Union members.
Education for the sake of increasing knowledge leads a mature person to be a conservative. Why do you think there's such an objection to vouchers?

TheArmyWife
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TheArmyWife 08/22/10 - 08:51 am
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Please clarify how this is

Please clarify how this is considered a "guest column" and not an unpaid advertisement.

avidreader
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avidreader 08/22/10 - 09:22 am
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God bless Mr. Hall. He is an

God bless Mr. Hall. He is an energetic and well respected educator. I wonder, how many of his students are absent twenty or more days per school year? I personally know that MANY low income children will rise to the occassion of rigorous instruction and compete with the children from affluent families. Especially when they are reared in families that consider education a priviledge. We in the mainstream will keep plugging away.

As ArmyWife states, this column does smack of an attempt to maintain enrollment in tough economic times. Maybe DFA, ARJ, and ARC's IB program are pulling a few too many kids from the exclusive private schools.

mybaskett
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mybaskett 08/22/10 - 09:25 am
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TheArmyWife I was thinking

TheArmyWife I was thinking the same thing.

Pay What U Owe
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Pay What U Owe 08/22/10 - 10:22 am
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I am also with Armywife. I

I am also with Armywife. I suppose we should be grateful for unpaid ads instead of lame political boilerplate that Rush had left over.

john.q.publius
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john.q.publius 08/22/10 - 11:12 am
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momster, a quick review of

momster, a quick review of the school's website shows that tuition is nowhere near $15k, and also that a high percentage of students get financial aid. TheArmyWife, is the topic of education not one of interest to citizens of the CSRA? We see "guest editorials" all the time in the AC that address people's choice of church, people's behavior at First Friday, you name it. The first line of the piece says that parents should examine the quality of their child's education--public or private--and the rest of the piece offers information not available on, say, the county Board of Ed's website. You might not think the information is interesting if you are happy with your child's school, but it's hard to follow your reasoning in asserting that the piece is nothing more than an ad...

momster59
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momster59 08/22/10 - 11:14 am
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Looked at the website before

Looked at the website before posting. High school tuition starts at close to $13,00, add in all the fees and books and you are at approximately $15,000.

dani
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dani 08/22/10 - 11:42 am
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Private school education is

Private school education is worth every penny you spend. You might have to give up some of the luxuries you enjoy, but your child will surely benefit.

momster59
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momster59 08/22/10 - 01:51 pm
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True dani, but with an

True dani, but with an average income of $38K for this area, public schools are all most can go with. I teach in a public school and can tell you that students who are dedicated, hard working and have the positive support of parents can and do succeed in the public schools.

I agree with avidreader et.al. that this letter smacks of an unpaid ad for what is a good private school hit by hard economic times as parents return their children to the programs offered through the public school systems.

john.q.publius
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john.q.publius 08/22/10 - 05:52 pm
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momster "I agree with

momster "I agree with avidreader et.al. that this letter smacks of an unpaid ad for what is a good private school hit by hard economic times as parents return their children to the programs offered through the public school systems." Hmm, I don't know. If you look at their website, you see PE, art, music, small class sizes and nothing about furlough days. Doesn't sound to me like a school that is being "hit by hard times." In fact, it says they got a $2 million dollar grant in '09 to offer financial aid to "gifted students with financial need." http://www.augustaprep.org/page.cfm?p=645 That same page says that they are "fresh from conducting the second largest capital campaign in Augusta history for the purpose of building new facilities." Again, doesn't sound to me like they are hurting for cash. Seems more like exactly what it says it is: a piece about some good education news for a change, instead of all the gloom and doom about furloughs and failure to meet ayp, class size waivers, eliminating foreign language classes, the state taking over schools, etc. You can pick up the paper several times a year and see great reporting about good news at the local magnet schools, as well as at any local public school when there is good news to tell (which is, to be sure, not at all uncommon). I don't recall having seen a lot of coverage of local private schools. Doesn't surprise me at all that the editor would run a piece like this, not as an "unpaid ad," which is just silly, but as information of interest to (at least) the segment of his readership that sends their kids to private schools. It might even be of interest to people thinking about doing so. I mean, it's right next to a piece celebrating ASU's golf team. Is that an "unpaid ad" for ASU???

catandrews
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catandrews 08/23/10 - 07:09 am
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Wow. I am so happy to see

Wow. I am so happy to see that no one here drank the koolaid. This is indeed a blatant attempt at pulling the wool over the community's eyes. There is an untold depth of truly bad schooling going on at Prep, especially in the lower school. There is a totally unqualified head of lower school, intense drama causing over a dozen good people to be fired in the past two years. Children are definitely not the focus of this facility and all that money is not getting them anything special. Glad you all have a clue! Maybe because the paper's former editor sits on the board, Prep is always getting all this free publicity.

PCGIRL
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PCGIRL 08/23/10 - 12:39 pm
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Catandrews.....you go girl.

Catandrews.....you go girl.

etholconhan
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etholconhan 08/23/10 - 10:01 pm
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While I understand that upper

While I understand that upper school education is most important to those children who will eventually be going to to college, I do find it interesting that this school in particular thinks that they corner the market on a quality education. I understand that for the amount of money that it costs to attend, they certainly can and will defend their right to say so; but I feel obligated to remind parents that there are quite a number of good private and public high schools in this area. Education is not a spectator sport. It requires participation on all fronts. What these children get out of the high school experience is what we as parents teach them to put in. I believe there are a great many successful people who have come out of their college years unscathed by the stigma of coming from a "less than adequate" high school. These people are self made people who have fulfilled their quest to be self reliant without the aid of parents who can afford to steer them through the "difficult times". I am however, familiar with this school, and will say in defense of them that their middle and upper school is one to be envied if you are looking for an excellent education for your child.
I have to agree with catandrews, however, on the conclusions drawn regarding the lower school. I do not agree with the "bad schooling" assumption. This is a problem that lies soley in the lap of the headmaster of the lower school. There are many teachers in the lower school who are dedicated not only to quality teaching, but to their students welfare as well. Ironically enough, several of these teachers who have been "let go" or have resigned, have been alumni of this school, graduating and consequently going on to higher education. Apparently one thing this administration has failed to realize is that "turn over" is as detrimental to a child's welfare and education as their assumption that a public school is!!

Babe and Lou
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Babe and Lou 08/23/10 - 01:20 pm
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So, let's see. In the past 3

So, let's see. In the past 3 years ,since the new head of the lower school came on board, 18 teachers or aides have either left, been encouraged to leave (essentially fired), or resigned. The admission and academic standards of the lower school have been lowered and the curriculum has now been "dummied down" so that students who previously would not be academically eligible for Prep are allowed to enter. Basically, you now have a public school curriculum. Why pay that kind of money when you can get the same thing for free publically? And for what reason? Could it be that the only thing that matters now at Prep is money? Yes, in these hard economic times parents cannot afford a private school education, but is that reason to lower the standards just to get money. Prep used to be a fine school when it was not so much about buildings and bottom lines. So let's see if in another 10-12 years the statistics quoted by Mr. Hall stand up as these students move on up. There are, of course, lies, damn lies and statistics!

john.q.publius
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john.q.publius 08/24/10 - 01:32 pm
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Hmmm...again, all I know is

Hmmm...again, all I know is what I read on the website. However, I look and see that the "Lower School" that all of you are referring to has 7 grades (preschool thru 4) and 2 classes at each grade. That's 14 teachers, plus some aides and PE and art teachers and such, I'm sure. If you look at those teachers' bios on the website, most of them have been there three years or more. It's hard to see how you could have "a dozen" or "18 teachers or aides" fired if there are so few throughout the whole school, and most of them have been there throughout the time that you're saying was characterized by all this high turnover. Again, I don't care, don't know much about all the private schools in the area, though I do have some strong opinions about our local public schools. But this kind of sloppy thinking--that just allows folks to post any ol' thing on here without checking the most basic facts to see if they are in line with what is being said--is a little unfortunate. I'm not sure that a school that just finished a huge fund-raising campaign and that just got a huge grant is "in need of money," nor am I sure that a school with 20 or so teachers and aides, most of whom have been at the school for 3+ years (and several have been there for over a decade), can have replaced 18 teachers in the past 2 or 3 years. Sounds to me like the writer probably has a very definite opinion about the quality of his school, but some of these comments obviously reflect someone with an axe to grind. Maybe at least take a look at the school's site before you comment, unless you're going to maintain that it's nothing but a bunch of lies, too.

Babe and Lou
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Babe and Lou 08/24/10 - 03:16 pm
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John Q - You are right. All

John Q - You are right. All you know is what you read on the website. I don't have to look at website, already have. I know first hand who these individuals were and there were 18. Not all of the lower school teachers now there have been there over three years and the assistant pool has been severely reduced. Are you looking at the same site? As to the grant you mention, Prep received a grant to provide tuition for students of need. They are able to maintain enrollment by allowing many students to enter who in years past would not have met admittance criteria. Still money, however you get it. And the fund raising money primarily went to the physical plant for the upper school and atheletic facilities.Not one penny for lower school improvements . And since I had several children who received wonderful educations at the middle and lower schools there, I think I am more qualified than you to comment on the current conditions at the lower school . So this is not sloppy thinking as you say nor am I posting just any old thing. The people who love Prep for what it was know this is the truth and are saddened by the present lower school circumstances. However, I do respect your opinion as I hope you do mine.

catandrews
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catandrews 08/24/10 - 03:21 pm
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Re: John "If you look at

Re: John "If you look at those teachers' bios on the website, most of them have been there three years or more. It's hard to see how you could have "a dozen" or "18 teachers or aides" fired if there are so few throughout the whole school, and most of them have been there throughout the time that you're saying was characterized by all this high turnover."
If YOU look at their website you will see at least two new lower school teachers this year, at least two new lower school teachers last year and 4 less aides than previously. No computer teacher. Enough said.

etholconhan
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etholconhan 08/24/10 - 04:32 pm
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I think that what one has to

I think that what one has to consider when observing the website is that any teachers/aides that have left for whatever reasons have been eradicated from the site entirely almost immediately upon walking out of the door. You would not read any evidence of past employees and all that remains is the list of current teachers and aides which is incomplete in regards to new coming teachers.
The last three years have seen the loss of too many good teachers and aides many of whom have suffered losses needlessly. This is not an attempt to "grind an axe" as is stated by John Q, it would appear that under the glowing report given as written, there is indeed a need to understand that statistics aren't everything and that at times the spin doesn't necessary add up to the facts.

Family27
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Family27 08/24/10 - 05:15 pm
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Augusta Prep, like so many

Augusta Prep, like so many other Private Schools in this country, are promoting what they offer as a school. Take the complaining somewhere else!!

catandrews
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catandrews 08/24/10 - 06:29 pm
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THANK YOU Family27. No one

THANK YOU Family27. No one hit the nail on the head as precisely as you did. Prep is PROMOTING what they offer here. Correct me if I am wrong, but this ran on the editorial page. My understanding is that editorial pages solicit and run opposing views. All these comments are opposing views to what Prep is promoting. All these comments also are prompted by the inappropriateness of using the editorial page for that purpose. I pay for my newspaper. I read advertisements of my own choosing. I can clearly tell the difference. I resent the newspapers giving Jack Hall free space on the editorial page to "promote" his school.
Since he opted to do that, tradition decrees that opposing "editorial" views have every right to be expressed. You consider that "complaining"? Do you consider all letters to the editor as complaints or as opposing views? By placing this article where they did, the newspaper has said that it is an "opinion" and what I see here, from both sides, are lots of intelligent opinions. I hope people never see the expression of opinions as "complaining". Sounds to me like some of these folks know more facts about how things really are at Prep. Maybe prospective parents need this balance of information before paying considerable money to put their child in this school. Would you want to know all the facts about somewhere you intend to entrust your child?? Or just the "opinion" of the headmaster?

Family27
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Family27 08/24/10 - 11:29 pm
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You are so right Cat!! I'm

You are so right Cat!! I'm so sorry! I must have missed the part in the article/letter that mentioned "Lower School." If you practice what you preach, then you should have only written about how upset you were about the location the letter was placed or how you "resent giving the school free space." However, you and others have gone on a wild tangent about something completely different. You also claim to know so much about the number of teachers that have left. But when you list them, it does not come close to the 18 that has been stated. Many have gone out of their way to comment negatively about the lower school, which is so sad. I certainly hope these "opinions" are not being left by disgruntled teachers and parents. If so, I feel bad for the head of the Lower School to have to put up with you/them. Although, I'm sure you are as sweet as pie to his/her face!!! Enjoy your night!

trimmy
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trimmy 08/25/10 - 12:42 pm
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The opportunity for a good
Unpublished

The opportunity for a good public education is available. It is up to the parents, the teachers and the students to work together to promote this education. With dicipline all but gone and respect for authority lacking, it will be difficult for knowledge to enter the minds of our young people. The discipline and respect needs to start at home before the children start school. The decline of the family unit has stopped this process. A 50% graduation rate is unacceptable. The downfall of America has begun.

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