April 15. 2018 1:45AM

Report cards: Good isn't good enough


New Hampshire schools received passing grades on the latest round of assessment tests, but we're hardly on the honor roll.

The 2017 National Assessment of Education Progress tested fourth- and eighth-grade public school students in math and reading. New Hampshire ranked above the national average on all four tests. But that still leaves more than half of New Hampshire students as less than "proficient."

And as Josiah Bartlett Center President Andrew Cline notes today, these averages mask a significant gap, with students from low-income families underperforming.

New Hampshire has some very good public schools, and many students excel. If we are to provide an excellent education to as many Granite State students as possible, we must look beyond the averages, and concentrate on those kids the current system is failing.

Those challenges go beyond the school building's walls. We're losing the family and social structures that prepare students for the classroom.

City Hall columnist Paul Feely reported last week that 25 percent of Manchester students were "chronically absent," missing three or more weeks of school last year. It's hard for students to succeed if they aren't showing up.

Superintendent Dr. Bolgen Vargas has started notifying parents whenever a student is absent or tardy.

We must be willing to shake up the status quo. Our public school system uses a calendar and a classroom model from the 19th century. There is little room for innovation or customization.

That's why school choice can be so useful, giving students ill-served by their public schools the flexibility to seek out a better education. Families satisfied with the local public school could stay in it. Low-income families wanting alternatives would be able to afford them.

New Hampshire schools are good, but not good enough.