Howard High's Last Laugh

March 10, 1995

Howard High School started 1995 under less than auspicious circumstances.

A physical education teacher who had been discovered one morning in the school semi-conscious and suffering from a stab wound said that two men had attacked her. A manhunt ensued as rumors flew that students might have been involved. Yet the teacher's story seemed shaky to investigators. She ultimately came to confess that her wounds were self-inflicted and resigned from her job. By then, however, the Howard High community felt it had been badly tarnished.

The incident furthered widespread doubts about the school and fueled a gross generalization that Howard High did not deserve. Thus, we were glad to see the school acknowledged recently in a more positive light, and in a way that should serve as a welcome source of pride for the school's staff and 1,500 students.

A state education panel has nominated Howard High as one of eight finalists for the national Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence award, which will be distributed by the U.S. Department of Education in December. Unlike many other education awards, which focus on test scores to assess a school's performance, judges in this competition looked at other factors, which are many times a truer reflection of the institution's ability to foster student success.

While Howard ranks low among the county's high schools in terms of college entrance exams, it receives high marks for having an innovative academic program, particularly in its efforts to meet the demands of a diverse population.

The tendency to judge a school strictly on test scores often misses crucial truths. Schools with homogeneous populations of students from middle- and upper-middle class homes are easiest to teach. Schools such as Howard, which serves a variety of races and incomes, often have a tougher task.

Under Principal Eugene Streagle, Howard High's efforts at site-based management, its four-period schedule and special programs for ninth-graders and troubled students distinguished it from others in the competition.

Perhaps this deserved recognition will make some amends for slights of the past.

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