Shape Up or Ship Out!

In researching public school performance historical records this week, I ran across some data I thought the taxpayers of Lee County and our Board of Education might like to know.

According to the Department of Public Instruction’s published data, tracking back to 1995, the school districts our illustrious Superintendent Moss has presided over as an Associate Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, and as Superintendent have never achieved even the state average for SAT scores while he was in a position of authority.  Yes, that’s right, never once in 16 tries dating back to 1995.   Isn’t that like a school having a major sports coach who has never had a winning record?  Would that school continue to pay its coach an above average salary for that position?  I think not.  Frankly, I doubt that coach would last long at any salary!

It’s not like those counties didn’t have the demographics or the raw intellect to perform well.  In fact, Lee County beat the state average with an average SAT score of 1009 back in 2004, a full four years before Dr. Moss came here. Beaufort County beat the state average in 1998, about six years before Dr. Moss arrived.    So, it is possible for most counties to achieve the modest goal of achieving the state average on SAT tests.

A popular legacy for leaders to cite is that their institutions were better off following their departure than before they arrived.  In looking at the SAT scores for the three school districts Dr. Moss has left, district-wide averages were still well below state averages for several years after his departure.  (One can’t help but wonder if the poor track record of his school districts in SAT performance isn’t one of the reasons that Dr. Moss is trying to move Lee County away from using the SAT as its college prep test of choice.)

Just as with the coach who never seems to achieve a winning record, at some point taxpayers need to demand accountability for the performance of their Superintendent of Schools.  I am surprised our Board of Education hasn’t already made that point in our Superintendent’s contract.  If the School Board fails to correct this oversight, and remains tolerant with SAT scores perpetually below the state average, then we need to replace each and every one of the Board members who allows the malfeasance to continue.   Moreover, if Dr. Moss fails to achieve at or above the state average for SAT scores this next reporting year, then he should be dismissed, or at least put on notice that he has but one year to correct his poor performance. 

As they say in sports and the military, shape up or ship out!

About John Jay

First Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; Author of several of the Federalist Papers
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6 Responses to Shape Up or Ship Out!

  1. Interesting find, Mr. Jay. Tell me- did you find any other school performance stats that might help Lee County gauge the progress (or lack thereof) among its schools?

  2. Goose says:

    Mayberry or Lake Wobegon? “All the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” Sorry JJ I couldn’t resist, but in truth for every winner there is a looser, just what makes you think that a school must be above the state average in SAT scores to be worthwhile? I could raise our average score in one year by discouraging the less brilliant students from taking the SAT. It would upset their parents to learn that Jr. isn’t really college material, but they are likely to learn that when the scores come back anyway. Must someone pay the College Board $47 to take the tests to learn that? The question boils down to the purpose of the school education, must everyone go to a 4 year college rather than being a skilled tradesman, chefs, business owners, contractors, firemen or law enforcement officers. CCCC is here for them and if they work hard and smart can end up better off than the ones that went to college and couldn’t find a major that suited them.
    The College Board which owns the SAT tests has tinkered with them quite a bit over the period you mentioned so the 1994 scores can’t be directly compared with later years unless you buy a comparision tool. There is evidence that test scores are correlated with family income. Those who come from family incomes of $20K or less had mean scores of 1310 points while the $200K crowd had mean scores of 1715, on a 2000 point scale 405 points are a large difference. While I would like to get the stone rolling and get rid of the Moss, I don’t think SAT scores alone are enough to do it.

    • John Jay says:

      Now Goose, please don’t put words in my mouth. No one said anything about the schools not being worthy. In fact, I didn’t even claim that any of the four school systems Dr. Moss has had supervisory authority over should regularly be at or above the state average for SAT scores. I merely pointed out they NEVER do. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then, or so they say.

      Take a gander at the school districts that perform well and take a look at their percentages of students who are taking the test. Aside from Hoke County in the late 1990’s, Moss’ districts weren’t all that different from other many better-performing districts in the state in terms of demographics and income. There were several poor districts that averaged 20-30 points higher than Beaufort and Stanley counties in some of those years.

      Now that Dr. Moss has been here for 3 years, and now that his programs have had a chance to take root, it’s high time our scores see some measurable gains.


      • Goose says:

        JJ my heart really isn’t into defending Moss, my whole point was that the SAT was not a good measure, in fact I wonder if a good measure actually exists. Educators as a group seem to try to avoid being measured; lack of results is usually blamed on the students they had to work with. I think I will accept your blind squirrel theory and say yes he should have beaten the average once in 16 years and say he should ship out. The fact that districts, including Lee, beat the average before he came aboard I find to be interesting and maybe meaningful. The trailing effect you mentioned is even more meaningful. Usually a new coach is given a “rebuilding” year or two during which they are expected to show at least a modest increase in the team’s record so you are on the mark to call for an increase in scores if his methods were working.

  3. John Jay says:


    Yes, I agree with your points about the SAT testing and rough correlations between SAT scores and family income. To be honest, as much as I would prefer otherwise, there is a loose correlation with demographics. Minorities (other than Asians) do less well on the test, regardless of the year of testing. Children with rich parents trend higher. And so forth… Those disparities are overcome occasionally in some school districts, and in quite a few charter schools. Success stems as much from parental involvement, pre-test preparation by the students, and the quality of their first 10 years or so of education in the ‘system.’

    The point of my article was to illustrate that we didn’t get a Mike Krzyzewski or a Vince Lombardi when we hired ‘Coach’ Moss to be our school superintendent. We need to recognize his win-loss record isn’t anything to crow about and we certainly ought not be paying him like he was some sort of superstar superintendent. There’s a much more convincing argument in support of dismissing him and finding ourselves someone more like Wake County’s Tony Tata.


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