Question for The Ledger: Why is the personal academic history of a single kid at McKeel considered far more significant than the superb, state-leading performance of Polk State College students when they go off to attend 4-year universities?
I guess you’ll have to ask Merissa and her editors. Because I have no idea.
In any event, the most locally significant story The Ledger ran last week it buried on page B3.
“According to a report by the Florida College System, Polk State ranked tops out of 28 state and community colleges in grade-point averages earned in the first year after transferring to a state university.”
I’m skeptical of most studies and measurements and rankings, all of which are gameable. But even allowing for that, here is a government institution that seems to be working. More interestingly, what does PSC’s success say about the kids it takes in from the Polk system?
I don’t have any stats, but I would bet that the core of PSC’s enrollment is kids that come from what I call “the 65 percent” — the students that attend traditional zoned schools in Polk. That’s not to say no one from the charter, magnet, choice and private world attends. I can think of a number of “35 percent” kids from fancy schools who attend PSC right off the top my head. However, I think it’s fair to say that PSC’s work reflects at least somewhat the work of the Polk District. Kids don’t come in stupid basket cases and go out college-prepared after two years.
And doesn’t that rather lend credence to my theory — backed by empirical numbers — that the 65 percent are overachieving, not sucking? Is this not worth thinking two minutes about? Not to The Ledger. It would rather save its centerpieces for accidental expose puff pieces about how McKeel deigned to work with one boy it would normally cast out of the school.
There is a very, very, very strange obsession in the 35 percent world with the suckiness of the 65 percent, and it manifests itself all over the place in a million lies of commission or omission.
On the same day it basically ignored the powerful success of Polk’s most important engine of higher learning, The Ledger did publish an interesting story about the inane FPU e-mail yammerings between J.D. Alexander’s wife, Seth McKeel’s sister, and a USF administrator suspended and recommended for firing.
The hook was how these three “leaders” were chatting dubiously about personnel issues they’re supposed to have no role in. I’m shocked, shocked. But the real revelation to me was how Dilbert it all sounded.
These are the people who are going to build the university. And they’re trading casual, uninformed emails about how to best recruit terrified USF employees to an unaccredited cow field. The wife of the senator who rammed it through seems to be taking the lead. And yet, she’s asking: “Who are the opinion leaders? Who are they and what do we need to say?”
Uh, shouldn’t you have had this conversation a while ago? And how is it that J.D. Alexander’s wife doesn’t know who the “opinion leaders” are among former USF Poly employees?
“Maggie, what do you think?,” Seth McKeel’s sister is asked at one point.
I have taken part in many tail-chasing committee meetings in my life. You can always tell when nobody’s in charge because people start asking questions like, “What do you think?”
If I were a Poly booster, this story would make me very afraid. Not because Cindy Alexander might hire her buddies, sketchy as that would be. No, it’s because these three people seem to be the head of recruitment, and they got no idea what they’re doing.
But maybe they can prove me wrong. This is the Polk leadership class’s — the 35 percent’s — chance to prove it can actually build and run something it didn’t inherit or game. Good luck.
In the meantime, I’ll be focused on the established successful work the 65 percent are doing at Polk State. Perhaps somebody else might, too.