Huntsville Leaders Fight Perception of Failing Schools

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)--  Huntsville city leaders are fighting perception.

A list labeling nine Huntsville schools as 'failing' has forced the city to tackle the negative perception some people have of our schools.

Mayor Tommy Battle is leading the campaign, going into those failing schools to find out what is really going on inside. Battle says the reality is things are looking up for those schools and he wants everyone to know about it.

"Perception can become reality so we have to make sure that people have the real facts," Battle says.

The City of Huntsville's YouTube page is filling up with new videos taken from inside each of the schools that Mayor Battle has visited over the last several weeks.

In north Alabama, 10 schools are listed as failing. Nine are in Huntsville and one is in Decatur. See the full list.

Huntsville City Schools
SR Butler High School
Chapman Middle School
Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School
Davis Hills Middle School
Ed White Middle School
J.O. Johnson High School
Lakewood Elementary School
James Dawson Elementary School
Westlawn Middle School

Dr. Tommy Bice, Alabama Superintendent of Education, said it is important to look at the numbers on the list next to some of the schools.  He said some, including Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary in Huntsville, have shown real progress in the last six years.

A school is listed as failing if it falls in the bottom six percent of schools in the state, and MLK was not on the failing list the last two years.  In fact, its numbers show a 34% increase in student achievement over the last six years.  However, because it did fall in the bottom six percent for the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 school years, it made the failing list.

Additionally, James Dawson Elementary did not make the bottom six percent of schools the past two years. However, it did the previous four years, so it made the failing list.  James Dawson’s numbers show a 29% increase in student achievement since 2006.

Huntsville’s Lakewood Elementary School didn’t fail in 2012, but did the previous five years.  Lakewood’s numbers show a 28% increase in student achievement since 2006.


  • Nuclear Mike

    The Mayor seemed sort of panic’ed with his over zealous desire to convince the Public everything is just fine in our schools…

  • Don

    They think building a new school and changing the name is going to help. Wrong. Tell me. What do all these schools have in common? I heard a teacher say she came from New York and would rather teach there than Johnson High

    • John

      Right- if you put a skunk in a rose garden…. it will still stink, no matter now big or new the roses are.

    • Shon

      I can agree with you most of the new teachers are not allowed to say NOTHING but positive feedback about their current job at HCS. But as you stated I rather go back to PS11 in Brooklyn and teach than work here in Huntsville City. Too many liars behind the helm of the school board.

  • Jim M

    Well, Butler, Johnson, Ed White,Davis Hills are all being consolidated. Butler and Johnson will be Mae Jemison. Ed White and Davis hills are being consolidated into Ronald McNair on the Mae Jemison Campus. HCS has hired a top principal and 2 of his assistants to run Mae Jemison.His school was ranked one of the best in the country and it was similar to Johnson. So bringing him and his principals onboard to guide Mae Jemison should help. Having Ronald McNair co-located with Jemison should help too since all those students will go to Jemison. Alot of time and effort has been made by the Superintendent and School board to help make both schools a success. So that leaves Chapman and Westlawn in the failing list. There has been alot of focus on Westlawn with Teach for America teachers with it having the highest concentration of them there. It has issues and is being dealt with. The city is not ignoring these schools. All the other schools listed as failing have not failed for the past several years so there is alot of improvement going on there. There is some discussion about putting 6th grade back in the elementary schools which could help the middle schools. Either way the Board and Superintendent are working on these problems and are making headway…

    • Nuclear Mike

      “Good” story stick to it as the Mayor will give you a PR job as he has no real PR skills…

  • Denya Wilkins

    They have a huge problem at Westlawn and one of the biggest problems is the Office staff. The ones in charge of the school could care less about the students or the signifigance of their jobs. I cant transfer my kids because they are white but any other minority can. Screw the desegregation law and put ALL kids first. They are basically telling the kids that skin color determines whether or not they can get a real education which should not be allowed. I am forced to go to private schools now and am grateful that private schools arent on a prejudice level. This state needs to grow up and get out of the past and treat all kids equally. We wouldnt have such a budget issue in the schools (or the labeling of rich schools and poor schools) if the leaders in our state would get out of the past and legalize the lottery in Alabama at least for funds to fix alot of the budget and school issues. The real truth is that they are hiding alot of the school issues and not helping the ones that need it the most. Turning the other cheek will not work anymore.Its enough.

  • LIzzy

    Parents also need to parent their children, Most cannot even read or comprehend the homework that is sent home so how can they help their children ? When is the last time you read a book to your child or helped solve a math problem ? A School is the facility that your child goes to to learn it does not control or stop there we need to educate our own children ! Read with them and teach them right from wrong . We need to go over current events with our children. We need to test and quiz them and see if they comprehend the information they are taught ! Why does madison have better schools then Huntsville ? It has nothing to do with white people it has to do with parenting ! P A R E N T I N G . the thing you do when you have children and you care about them , love them , and want more for them then what you have. We need to open a school just for parents , parents who dropped out, who cant read , WHO DONT CARE !

  • Denya Wilkins

    Absolutely agree. But the parents that don’t care are still affecting the entire school, It is still the schools job to teach the kids and make sure they are at the level they need to be for the grade they are in and if they are not at that level then why are these schools passing them to the next grade? At Westlawn they go to school until 4pm, the reason is because there are so many students below their grade level that they decided they needed an extra hour for those kids, thats fine and all but why make the kids and parents that are doing their job suffer the same. Its not just because of the failing school status I wanted my kids transferred but also because of the bullying, harrassment, and all the office staff there does about anything is laugh and not punish those being unruly. The schools need to start making these bad parents accountable for their kids behavior and learning. They need to quit taking kids for example that are reading at 2nd grade level, in the 7th grade, and they continue to pass them to the next grade. My kids are A,B students. At Westlawn, you cant get any info on their website, the grades are not posted, the homework is not posted, no events are posted, but yet the principal has enough time to Auto-call me 4 times a day for events which is getting annoying. She needs to take that time to work on her school instead of recording phone calls all day. The staff does not take complaints seriously, I personally have been laughed at by the staff when there have been problems. Half the students arent bringing their computers to school , who knows why, Westlawn has many Serious issues and thank god my kids wont be there next year. They are a pathetic excuse for a school. Not even the nurse cares about the bad lice problem there. What does she do all day? Nothing. The staff there could care less about anything, especially the kids. I will say, many of the teachers there actually do their job and care and are respectful and nice. You cant blame it all on the parents, if the school isnt punishing the bad kids, if the school isnt notifying parents of learning problems, then that is the schools fault and they need to be held accountable.

  • Nancy

    The video about Chapman, was actually filmed in the elementary school. Olivia is a 3rd grader, not a 7th grader. The teachers shown in the video are P-5th grade, not middle school. Chapman Elementary has NEVER been a failing school and it isn’t fair to those teachers, students or parents to be highlighted in a fail in schools video. You might want to ask yourself why the middle school wasn’t in the video.

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