OUR VIEW: NAACP should’ve waited for more testing data before second TCSS-focused press conference

Published 8:30 am Wednesday, July 12, 2023

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The Troup County chapter of the NAACP held its second press conference in 98 days on Friday, again criticizing the leadership of the Troup County School District. 

Glenn Dowell, who serves as the education chair for the organization, didn’t bite his tongue this time when it came to discussing Superintendent Brian Shumate.

Dowell made it clear that he believes Shumate should resign, noting lackluster test scores over his four years as superintendent.

After the last press conference in March, we wrote an editorial asking if it was fair to criticize the school system’s test scores in mid-summer 2023. 

Shumate took over in the summer of 2019, almost immediately was faced with a world-altering pandemic that took children out of the classroom for a year or two and is now working to overcome the same learning loss every school district in the country is battling.

The proof is in the numbers. The 19.8 national average ACT Composite score for the high school class of 2022 is the lowest average score in more than three decades, according to the nonprofit organization that administers the college readiness exam.

Nothing — and we mean absolutely nothing — has changed in the last 98 days.

For the majority of that time, students weren’t even in the classroom.

For the most part, Dowell and Troup NAACP President Mike Meredith made the exact same points they did three months ago when speaking Friday. Low test scores. Alleged race-biases in discipline. (They even used the same student and incident as an example.)

Dowell said there’s been new test scores since the last press conference, but nothing has been released publicly via the Georgia Department of Education. The LaGrange Daily News also didn’t find new test scores through the other source he mentioned, the National Center for Education Statistics. 

Wouldn’t the NAACP’s argument be much stronger if they had new scores to reference, particularly scores that showed a decrease or little to no improvement in core subjects? 

GMAS scores are expected to be released next month, and Shumate noted that he expects those numbers to show improvement within TCSS.

To  be clear: Those scores need to rise. Everyone agrees about that, including Shumate and the Troup County School Board. 

A second press conference from the NAACP would’ve made more sense, timing-wise, after the release of those scores, if the organization reviews them and believes they aren’t up to par. 

Dowell also said numerous times that Troup County residents are sending their students to the higher-performing and smaller Heard County School District, but when pressed for numbers to back up that data, he didn’t have any. 

We also think it would be worthwhile if the organization had a presence at school board meetings, where typically the only people present after awards are the board, TCSS employees in the crowd and the reporter we have covering it.

Attending meetings would give a more thorough understanding of what TCSS is doing, or not doing, and how taxpayer dollars are being spent to improve the education of our children.

It’s clear the NAACP is watching our school system, expecting better and attempting to add some pressure to create those results. 

It’s a good thing anytime a community organization wants to be more involved in something so vital to all of us.

But at some point, if the messaging remains the same and new data isn’t provided to solidify the argument, then people are going to stop listening.