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EDITORIAL — Port Arthur schools are growing, room left for even more

Here’s one way to look at Port Arthur ISD school accountability scores: Mediocrity never looked so good.

That’s because the system, with more than 8,000 students, climbed from an overall score of 63 last year to 74 this year. That’s a big improvement, especially in a school district composed of mostly disadvantaged children, where the full weight of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey exacerbated existing disadvantages last year, for students and teachers alike.

Some school systems did better than others in Mid and South County. Sabine Pass ISD led the way for scores, with a 92 and an A. That small, one-site school district draws from children in its farflung outpost of Port Arthur, from Port Acres and from other areas where families opt into the well-funded, well-run district.

Nederland and Port Neches were both A systems, offering much ready testimony that both systems value public education and provide the resources to support it.

Port Arthur, though, is a special case. It is enthusiastically run and its administrators, teachers and parents remain committed to the idea that every child deserves an opportunity to learn. Its student composition, though, includes many children from disadvantaged homes, some of whom struggle mightily under disadvantages of poverty and struggles with the language.

Here are ratings scores around the city: DeQueen Elementary, C; Houston Elementary, B; Jefferson Middle, F; Lakeview Elementary, C; Lincoln Middle, C; Memorial High School, C; Port Acres Elementary, C; Staff Sgt. Lucian Adams Elementary, B; Travis Elementary, C; grades PK-5; Tyrrell Elementary, C; grades PK-Washington Elementary, C; Wheatley School of Early Childhood, C.

Ultimately, it won’t do anyone good to offer excuses. Students as adults must be able to answer affirmatively to the questions, “Do you know the subject matter?” and “Can you do the job?” Offering reasons why you don’t or can’t is no match for stating with confidence that you do and can, not when it comes to getting the job and doing it well.

Port Arthur ISD Superintendent Mark Porterie rightly said the system is and should be proud of and energized by the progress students achieved.

“As we continue to review the results, we see that there are areas which we need to address,” Porterie said. “… Our principals along with the central office, board members and parents are committed to addressing these areas to reach the goal of excellence within our district.”

That, it seems, is the commitment for Port Arthur schools: Reach the goal of excellence. Not the role of “average, but.”

Public schools offer children the opportunity to succeed, without assurance they will. That’s where freedom — the freedom to try, the freedom to persevere — plays its large part.

There’s room to grow in Port Arthur ISD. It’s a great year for progress.