Giving Gwinnett County Public Schools its props

I believe in giving credit where credit is due - unlike many mortgage lenders, who for the past 10 years have apparently believed in giving credit to anyone who asks.

In this case, the recipient of said credit happens to be the Gwinnett County Public Schools.

Yes, I know, in the past I've been critical of GCPS for everything from overcrowding to heavy-handed management practices to naming new schools after imaginary geological features. (Peachtree Ridge? Mill Creek? Mountain View?)

But the fact that 99 of Gwinnett's 105 public schools achieved Adequate Yearly Progress, according to recently released reports, is certainly praiseworthy. So is the fact that the system has steadily improved its performance ever since my children first enrolled in Gwinnett schools.

Actually, I think there's a correlation there.

AYP, for those who don't have school-age children or who have been living in a cave in Uzbekistan for the past six years, is a requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Basically, it stipulates that, in order to continue receiving federal funding, schools must meet certain standards in key areas, such as math, reading and production of college football talent.

Of course, the state of Georgia, as a national leader in education reform, has added its own, more stringent requirements on top of the NCLB standards. Georgia schools are expected to produce SEC-level talent.

Just kidding. Sort of.

Long-time readers of this column will attest that I'm no big fan of NCLB. Heck, I'm the same guy who once suggested we adopt federal guidelines aimed at eliminating baggy pants, to be known as "No Child's Left OR Right Behind."

There are those who would argue that the seemingly endless batteries of standardized tests required by NCLB do not constitute an effective method for evaluating student achievement. Others insist that the tests themselves are biased, favoring students from more affluent homes and communities.

I don't completely disagree with either of those arguments.

At the same time, though, you can't convince me that the numbers mean nothing at all. Whatever the reason - general affluence, well-compensated teachers, highly involved parents, liberal Taser usage - Gwinnett students as a group do perform better on standardized tests than their counterparts in other metro school systems.

And whether those tests tell the whole story or not, they clearly tell some of the story. Does anyone seriously doubt, based on these test results, that students in Gwinnett are more likely than students in DeKalb or Atlanta to have the skills necessary for college and beyond? And I'm not just talking about reading a playbook.

On a very practical level, there's something else those test results mean: that my home is now worth a little bit more than it was before the results were announced.

Hey, I wonder if some of those mortgage lenders are still hanging around.

Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.