Collection of recent editorials from Arkansas newspapers

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A collection of recent editorials by Arkansas newspapers:

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 10, 2015

Another test question

Maybe calling it the New Benchmark would have been too easy. And calling it the Common Core Test, with all that name's political baggage these days, impolitic. So whoever decides these things came up with the unfortunate name, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test, aka the PARCC.

If you have kids in school here in Arkansas, you may have heard of this new piece of educanto by now. The new test, which replaced the old Benchmark test, started being given this week. According to those who know, the new test would allow for better comparisons between what kids in Arkansas are learning and how kids in other states are doing. Good idea. So naturally this state's House of Representatives just voted 86-1 to get rid of it.

Here's hoping the state Senate and the governor have different opinions. So Arkansas won't junk this test just because it might have some vague connection with Common Core.

Sunday's paper spelled out all the troubles this new test has seen, and still sees. It's a nationally standardized test, and it's hard to tell if its opponents are more opposed to the national part of it or the standardized part. Or maybe even the test part.

One of the new test's opponents--a local radio talk-show host, we're told--was quoted in Sunday's paper badmouthing the new exam. For one thing, it's "not validated," whatever that means. Also, the radio personality called the tests, ahem, "cognitively inappropriate," whatever that means. Also, the caliber of the test questions are "often significantly above" the grade level of the children being tested. So were those who put together this test just setting up our kids for failure? Which would doubtless strike them as quite a surprise.

What do those who actually know what they're talking about say about the new tests? Consider the opinion of an assistant commissioner for learning services, Debbie Jones, over at the state's Department of Education. She was quoted in Sunday's paper, too, and concludes the new test is a marked improvement over earlier ones, and would let us compare how well our schoolkids are doing to those in, say, Ohio, Colorado or Illinois.

"All of the test questions are aligned with (academic) standards for the first time in years, which is a big relief to teachers," says Debbie Jones. And she notes that teachers can't teach to the test with this new test in place: "It tests your knowledge to think, and your knowledge to read and analyze and write well. I think it will be a really strong assessment--when it grows up."

That is, if the Legislature doesn't kill it in the crib.

Sure, there'll be glitches in this new test, just as there are glitches with anything new. But the state has spent $8 million for this new test. Which, by the way, is $6 million less than Arkansas has spent on the old tests. To sum up the case for the new tests: they're less expensive, of better quality, and better liked by teachers and administrators. So naturally the Arkansas House votes 86 to 1 to toss it out after this year.

Come on, folks. Let's do the sensible thing, and let the Radio Personalities do what they do best: Queue up songs for the drive home.

Texarkana Gazette, March 10, 2015

Fighting Back

When it comes to Internet slander and bullying, most people just brush it off. After all, it's the Internet where anyone can say just about anything with complete anonymity. What can you expect.

But some people let it affect them, in some cases deeply. And in a few, tragically.

But then there are those who fight back.

Curt Schilling transformed himself from Major League Baseball star into a video game developer and then embarked on a career as a sports broadcaster for ESPN. He is also very active on social media. So it was no surprise late last month when he took to Twitter to congratulate his 17-year-old daughter Gabby after she was accepted both to Salve Regina University and the school's baseball team. Schilling knew there would be some negative backlash on the site. He's not shy about expressing his opinion on controversial issues. He has his fans and his detractors. It's part of the game. But what happened next was a shocker. His daughter became the target of numerous vile, sick and explicit sexual comments. It went on and on. Now Schilling can take what's thrown at him. But he, like most fathers, considers such talk about his daughter off limits.

So Schilling did something about it.

He saved the comments. He tracked down the people who made them. He contacted them. And he got in touch with their schools and employers.

At least one has been suspended from college pending investigation and another has lost his job with the New York Yankees organization. And Schilling has at least a half-dozen names to go.

The FBI is involved now and the online bullies could find themselves facing criminal charges.

Schilling hit a home run with this one.

Now, there will surely be those who scream Freedom of Speech over even the most despicable slurs and abuse. But free speech does not mean you get to say whatever you want without any consequences. What you do online is usually there for the world to see_including prospective employers, potential mates and others who could help or hinder your future. You cross the line online, and you could find yourself paying for it for years to come.

But most who enjoy abusing others on social media don't think about that. After all, most people don't do anything about it.

But some do. And hopefully down the road more and more people will decide they aren't going to put up with such despicable conduct online any more than they would in person.

The Daily Citizen, March 7, 2015

Reputation doesn't negate investigation

We like our good guys and bad guys in black and white.

It's easier for us to believe that a person is capable of doing wrong when we perceive them to be a dirty, rotten scoundrel.

In contrast, it can be almost impossible for us to believe that a person we've seen do nothing but good things also can do something bad.

That seems to be the mind-set concerning Jeremy Clark, who resigned as Searcy's chief of police last week after he and the city were served warrants by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to search his city vehicle, office and home.

Clark is highly regarded by all accounts. The Daily Citizen has had a good relationship with him. No city official has ever come out and said he isn't what he seems to be. He even stood up for the "people that we serve" when he refused to remove a small, white wooden cross from in front of the private entrance of the chief's office when an anti-religion group stated it was "unconstitutional."

Those things don't necessarily mean, though, that the ATF is conducting a "fruitless investigation into my life," as Clark claims in his resignation letter, and as many are choosing to believe before the investigation is even complete.

Now, Clark has not been charged with anything, and it is hopeful that he won't be, but to ignore the possibility that the investigation has merit is to ignore the reality of the situation.

The ATF says it has been conducting an arson investigation for a year concerning Clark's grandmother's house, which he owns, in Bradford. During that investigation, agents collected enough evidence pertaining to federal firearms violations, controlled substance laws and abuse of power allegations for a U.S. magistrate to sign off on the search warrants, according to Grover Crossland, field office head agent of the Little Rock ATF.

In other words, this isn't a witch hunt where the agency is just grasping at straws. It asked for search warrants, and was granted them, because it has multiple reasons to believe that the allegations are true.

That doesn't mean we have to believe he will be found guilty of federal crimes, just that we don't need to be like the mother who says at her son's trial that there is no way he could have robbed his neighbor because "he's a good boy."

The truth is that few people who choose to commit crimes are completely evil. The sex offender might be the first person to run into a burning building and save a child's life. The murderer might be the same person who helped an elderly woman carry groceries to her car earlier that day.

Years ago, a former classmate robbed and killed a convenience store clerk. That didn't seem possible because he was always polite and quiet when he was in school. There were certainly others who seemed capable of such behavior, but not him.

Dennis Rader was a compliance officer for animal control in Park City, Kansas, leader of his son's Cub Scout troop and president of the church council at Christ Lutheran Church when he was arrested in 2005 for the BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) murders of 10 people between 1974-91.

After his arrest, Christ Lutheran Church's former pastor's remarks about Rader were he "always seemed — seems — to be a man of faith and conviction. It's simply not possible to put together the Dennis we know with the charges that have been brought against him."

All of us probably have things we're not proud of in our lives. It's likely not on the scale of serial killing or murder or even the type of alleged criminal conduct that could lead to charges against Clark, but we might break laws (like speeding) or lie or cheat in some way on occasion.

Man is fallible, and we need to keep that in mind when it comes to this investigation. There are plenty of things that Jeremy Clark has done to show that he is a good guy, but none of those things mean that he didn't make some bad decisions.

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