Taking Credit

HCSBoard Seal

Two of our high schools, Huntsville High and Grissom High, have received national recognition from the U.S. News and World Report ranking of high schools in the United States, and Dr. Cooper, the Deputy Superintendent of Huntsville City Schools said on Wednesday in an interview with WHNT that this national ranking “shows that our commitment to student achievement is working.”

During the televised interview she went on to say:

We have an extremely passionate staff. Our district is committed. Our community is committed . . . We’ve been very thoughtful about what we’ve done in our high schools . . . We definitely take our test scores very seriously. At the beginning of the year, our principals are sitting down with their staffs reviewing the test scores.

You can watch the entire interview here although the quote concerning this achievement showing “our commitment to student achievement is working” is not a part of the televised interview. That quote is taken from the web site text accompanying the video.

You know, aside from the fact that this ranking is based primarily and solely on test scores, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the achievements of our local schools. In fact, this is something that Dr. Cooper does quite well. Her primary responsibilities at the board meetings so far this year have in fact been to celebrate student, faculty, administrator and district achievements during the Superintendent’s Celebrations. Dr. Cooper has the unenviable task of reading the proclamations to those in attendance. She handles these responsibilities well, and as my daughter has received one of these celebrations, I am grateful to her for her work in setting these up.

While she has a right to celebrate Huntsville High’s and Grissom High’s achievements, she does not have a right to take credit for those achievements as her quotes indicate she is doing. During the video and in the story accompanying the video, she refers to her role in this achievement about ten separate times.

“Our commitment to student achievement,” “Our district,” “Our community,” “We’ve been thoughtful,” “What we’ve done,” “our test scores,” and “our principals” all indicate to me that Dr. Cooper believes that she and Dr. Wardynski and their “commitment to student achievement” are at least partly responsible for these two schools’ achievements.

And normally I would be inclined to agree with her. Education is a function of an entire community. No individual can be honestly singled out as deserving credit when a student learns. That credit, as you’re likely to hear at graduation ceremonies over then next few weeks, goes to a whole world of people.

Education is all of our jobs, and as such I have no problem with her taking some of the credit for these successes.

Except for just one small little detail.

The rankings that just came out from U.S. News and World Report are based on test scores from the 2009-2010 school year. Please go and take a look at the U.S. News and World Report methodology site on how they conducted their evaluation. Robert Morse tells us:

We analyzed 21,776 public high schools in 49 states and the District of Columbia. This is the total number of public high schools that had 12th-grade enrollment and sufficient data, primarily from the 2009-2010 school year, to analyze.

These 2012 rankings are based on test scores from the 2009-2010 school year.

Dr. Wardynski didn’t start working for Huntsville City Schools until July 5, 2011. Dr. Cooper didn’t start until October 2011.

In other words, it will be at least two more years before the Wardynski administration can take any part of the credit for future U. S. News and World Report High School rankings. In fact, if any superintendent deserves partial credit for these scores, that superintendent would in fact be Dr. Ann Roy Moore and her policies and not Dr. Casey Wardynski and his.

As Arnold H. Glasgow said, “A good leader takes a little more than his shard of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.”

Perhaps our current district administration will someday grow into their own claims of being “strong leaders.” As we saw in his acceptance of Superintendent of the Year, they’re not there yet.


For the record, the inspiration of this post came from a private communication from a regular reader. I have asked this reader if I could offer public credit for the suggestion, but this person has declined to be named. However, since I am being critical of the Superintendent for taking credit for others’ work, I do not want to be accused of doing the same. This post is entirely based upon my own research, but a reader, who wishes not to be named, suggested the topic to me. I thank that reader for the suggestion.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.


  1. Grissom and Huntsville High students were taught by trained, certified, educators, not Teach for America “students.

  2. just something to also not forget…Grissom was one of the school that DID NOT make AYP this year………just statin facts that can be found anywhere …..keep on doin what u do Russell….!!!!

Comments are closed.