Formerly one of the worst-rated schools in Stark County, Ohio, Massillon's Franklin School is just two steps away from achieving an “excellent with distinction” ranking after languishing at the bottom for seven years. The good news should help lay to rest the presumption that poor and minority kids can’t compete academically.

The good news coming out of Franklin School in Massillon, Ohio, these days should help lay to rest the presumption that poor and minority kids can’t compete academically.

Franklin recently earned an “effective” rating by the Ohio Achievement Test system, with 95.3 percent of kids testing as proficient or better, compared to 88.4 percent in 2008.

Formerly one of the worst-rated schools in Stark County, Franklin is just two steps away from achieving an “excellent with distinction” ranking after languishing at the bottom for seven years.

Franklin’s student body is 50 percent minority, 88 percent low-income and 13 percent special needs, yet it is defying what former President George W. Bush aptly called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

The equalizer

That’s because a good education has always been the great equalizer. It was education, not political correctness, that catapulted Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington from slaves to men of power and influence.

Education helped to propel the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. from college student at 15 to preacher to world-shaker. Education gave Malcolm X the means to transform himself from a petty criminal to a firebrand of conscience and eventually enabled him to embrace the post-racial nature of true religion.

Franklin’s success also refutes the notion that underachieving schools are a matter of kids’ “just not trying hard enough.” Poverty contains unseen burdens that extend far beyond too much homework. It can foster instability, if not outright chaos, at a time of life when we most need discipline, routine and a sense of safety.

Now, we know previous generations have used public education to better their lives, but one factor that cannot be argued away was the stability of their families, which came in many forms. That the kids at Franklin have been able to achieve in spite of social and economic obstacles that dwarf those of previous generations speaks to their character as well as to that of the adults in their lives.

Franklin Principal Michael Medure and his staff took up the challenge of increasing the odds of success by ensuring more opportunity for tutoring, volunteerism, intervention for children at risk, spurring parents to get involved and, just as importantly, getting kids to believe they could achieve.

Walking the plank

Here’s one reason why Ohio State football fans act as if head coach Jim Tressel is the best thing since sliced bread. Consider this classy gesture: Tressel and his staff are urging Buckeye fans to give the Midshipmen a standing ovation when Navy takes the field in Columbus on Saturday.

A standing ovation is the least that can be done for young men willing to serve in harm’s way so the rest of us don’t have to.

This isn’t to say the Buckeyes shouldn’t try to roll over Navy the way Admiral Nimitz took Midway, because let’s be realistic: Fans can turn on a college coach faster than the weather changes over Lake Erie. If Ohio State loses its first game of the year, Tressel could go from walking on water to walking the plank.

Charita Goshay writes for The Canton Repository. Contact her at charita.goshay@cantonrep.com