EDITORIAL Playing the game

RISD putting students ahead of state, federal numbers mess

You can read in this issue that an outside “monitor” is on board at the Rockdale ISD this school year, and for two more, in the wake of some less than desirable ratings which came out last summer. See page 1A.

That’s true so far as it goes. But, like most things involving schools nowadays what’s really happening is so complex and opaque as to be virtually incomprehesible to the average parent or community member.

Here’s the absolute bottom line, in English, which is a language that doesn’t get spoken very often in the jargonrich education biz.

Rockdale ISD is doing the best it can to put students first and still play the mind-boggling statistical game every one of Texas’ 1,200 school districts is forced to play.

Here’s what’s going on.

• Both the state (Texas Education Association) and federal government (AYP, “No Child Left Behind”) issue ratings based mostly on the yearly TAKS scores.

• Those ratings aren’t based on just totaling up everyone’s scores. If your school is big enough—Rockdale’s is—you can get bad rankings if individual racial and economic groups don’t score “high enough.”

• The numerical goals on which those rankings are based keep changing. And the state and federal number goals don’t match. That’s why the same scores can give districts, including Rockdale’s, different results in state and federal rankings. And some classroom approaches might help the district improve state scores and lower federal ones. And vice versa. Half the campuses in Texas failed to “make the grade” in the federal rankings.

• Yes, it’s a game and, yes, lots of things schools do are geared towards playing that game because they have to. In no small ways, Texas schools are “teaching the test.”

But the bottom line is, Rockdale ISD has made clear it will put needs of individual students first. And that’s good to know.—M.B.

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2012-03-15 digital edition

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