No ‘report card’

Sometimes it’s how well you play the game, not educate kids

You won’t be reading a story in next week’s Reporter telling you how area school districts fared on the annual Texas Education Agency (TEA) accountability ratings, known informally as the “school’s report card.”

That’s for a very good reason. There isn’t one in 2012.

That’s because Texas is switching over from the old Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) exam to the new State Assessment of Knowledge and Readiness (STAAR) test.

There will still be federal “school report cards” handed out in 2012, under the AYP (Average Yearly Progress) assessment, commonly knows as “No Child Left Behind.”

TAKS, of course, was the “be-all, end-all” of Texas education and this hiatus might be a good time to pause and reflect on the whole matter of “school report cards.”

First, the good. The idea behind issuing some kind of data enabling education consumers—parents and guardians— to know how school districts and campuses perform is sound. We ought to be able to compare education providers and see which ones do the best jobs.

It’s done every day in business. Ever buy a car, shop for insurance, pick one smart phone over another? Did you try to find out which one is the best?

The trouble is, that’s a lot easier said than done when the commodity is education. The obvious question is how do you measure something that subjective? Test scores obviously come to mind, but that creates a whole new set of problems. How do you measure sub-groups in small districts where there are only minuscule sampling sizes?

Answer is, you exempt many of them unless they have “x” amount to sample. And where do you draw the line? In smaller schools that’s a key question. One or two scores often skew the entire rating.

Even worse, the whole process can get turned into a game. Ratings can sometimes be how good you are at playing the game, not necessarily at educating kids.

But this year everyone will get a break from the annual mid-summer tension. Or, at least, half a break.—M.B.

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2012-07-26 digital edition

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