A local newspaper recently published the salaries of administrators in the Carroll County schools.
More than 100 of these professionals earn more than $50,000 a year.
This is not the first time the salaries of local educators have been published -- indeed, this is the third time in recent memory. Butthe amounts have raised consternation among the uninformed.
How, they demand, can anybody be worth these enormous amounts?
The answer is self-evident: results.
Carroll educators get more done with less. Year after year, they do this despite the lack of respect and support from a hostile community.
But education has many supportersin the community, you say.
Yes, and the embattled minority of citizens committed to educational excellence face an incessant barrage of criticism and complaint from the ignorant but vocal segment of the populace that prefers invective to information.
Depending on whosenumbers (or whose interpretation of whose numbers) we consider, Carroll schools are either third-best among the 24 jurisdictions in the state or in the top third, as measured by the Maryland School Improvement Program (MSIP). More about the matter of whose interpretation of whose numbers later.
Carroll's ratio of students to teachers is 19th in the state. Carroll's results are at least eighth. The success is disproportionate to the investment.
Carroll's ratio of principals and assistant principals to students is 19th in the state. Carroll's results are at least eighth. Again, the success is disproportionate.
Carroll's per-pupil expenditure is 16th in the state. To reach the state average would cost $725 per pupil, or almost $16 million. Again, we're getting more than our money's worth.
In the last year, Carroll's high school sports teams have won no fewer than 25 state and regional championships. Carroll's marching bands are perennial champions, widely recognized for their excellence.
By every measure, Carroll schools are excellent. By every measure, Carroll schools are under-funded and understaffed.
That is not to say there are not ways to make our schools more cost-efficient. It says our schools are doing an excellent job on short rations.
Then why don't our schools get respect?
First, one newspaper publishes salaries; then anotherquestions the way the system massaged the data to put school performance in the best light. The conclusion that paper reaches is that theCarroll schools are no better than eighth, but not third.
This conclusion is the product of a grading system developed and applied arbitrarily by the paper's staff. Maybe that way of looking at the data is more useful than looking at the data the way the Board of Education would have us look at it. Maybe not. Who cares?
After all the ink clears, what we have is one more nit to pick. Are the schools third? Eighth? Somewhere in between?
Slice the data any way you want, and the result is the same: better results than the investment would suggest possible. Yet, the weeping and gnashing of teeth continues.
In addition to the successes reported on the MSIP, Carroll students performed "significantly above" the national norms on the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills, which measures student achievement in reading, language and math.
Despite those successes, we will continue toendure the wails of the back-to-basics nuts, who aren't interested in facts.
We can improve our schools (by getting more of the existing professional staff into the classrooms, for example).
But we won't do so by heeding the babble of critics who don't visit the schools to see for themselves, who don't pay attention to the results and who begrudge quality professionals competitive wages.