We often use this space to promote education. And unlike our governor, many of our state legislators and the secretary of education, we don’t believe education should be limited to just the very wealthy.

Right now, school administrators are reviewing their school report cards from the Arizona Department of Education. We know the grades for schools in Greenlee and Graham counties (which can be seen at www.eacourier.com), even though the Education Department “embargoed” that information until Oct. 9. That’s because the Center for Investigative Reporting forced the issue.

It was an embargo, journalists believe, that was completely illegal. Once a document has been released to or by a public body (in this case, the taxpayer-funded Department of Education to taxpayer-funded school districts), that document becomes a public record and must be made available to anyone who wants to view it.

When the Center for Investigative Reporting requested to review the grades, not only was the reporter told no, he was forcibly removed from the premises.

CIR’s subsequent threat of legal action to get the data released allowed for the public to get an early glimpse into the scoring. And Greenlee County schools showed average performance. Morenci was given two “B’s” and one “C,” while Duncan received one “B” and one “C.”

A number of factors played into the scoring, but none more so than the standardized AZMerit test. Which has us wondering if the focus on education has become too narrow in scope.

Lately, it seems that if high school students don’t move on to some form of higher education — community college, college or university — which seems to be the driver of standardized testing, it’s seen as a failure of the K-12 school district. And, in our opinion, that’s not necessarily the case.

We value the work performed by those in the trades — plumbers, carpenters, welders, etc. — as much as we do those with accounting, computer technology and law degrees. Those who work in the trades perform an invaluable service for the community and should not be looked down upon because they don’t have a degree or sit behind a desk all day.

Let’s face it; when the pipe has burst, we’re not calling a doctor to fix it.

So, to bring our disparate points together, we wonder if, given the history of performance by our schools, one of the existing schools in Greenlee County (or a return of Clifton High School) might better serve the community as a vocational school.

Vocational schools are immensely popular in Europe, where the trades are viewed with the same respect as white-collar jobs.

We shouldn’t view vocational schools as the place for troublemakers; we should view vocational schools as viable alternatives for students with more interest in automotives, agriculture or cosmetology than physics and rhetoric. Vocational schools provide necessary training for those students and can help them advance faster in their careers by helping students through the apprenticeship process.

The result can be more of our children staying here rather than moving to Tucson or Phoenix for work or study, thus more of our children becoming successful, contributing members of the community. All because we, as a community, understand students excel when they’re learning about something they love.

There’s more than one path to success. Perhaps it’s time for us to try a new path.


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