The failure at Mills School to reach minimal academic goals says more about the adverse affects of poverty on education than about whether the school is doing its job.
Parents of Mills students will have the option to opt their children out of the school this fall because the school's academic performance in math, reading and attendance is below the state minimum based on test results tied to the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
That's a poke in the eye to staff members at the school who try every day to make a difference in the lives of their students. And, it's a poke in the pocketbook for the school district, which will lose funding if students opt out and select a private school over another Sandusky elementary school.
But the failure of Mills to reach adequate performance levels can be more precisely traced back to the income levels and social status of the families that live in the Mills school neighborhood. The southwest area of the city that Mills serves includes MacArthur Park and other areas that have traditionally included low-cost housing.
Assigning blame to the school district or the professional staff at Mills would be appropriate if it were the school district's job to solve the economic ills that impact student performance.
Why hasn't the school district lowered the local unemployment rate? Why haven't school officials created more high-paying jobs for parents of school students? Why hasn't the school district eradicated crime?
These questions and others about social ills that hurt student performance are not the school district's responsibility to answer or resolve. Performance in school will not improve for some students without intensive intervention from social service agencies and the community in helping families become financially stable and overcome other challenges.
The tax dollars spent providing these services represent an investment in the community's future; in the future of families, and most importantly, in the lives of children.