If you’re not perfect in two years then you’re failing, say the feds

The satirist Garrison Keillor said in his fictional Lake Wobegon “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children are above average.”

We’re rapidly approaching a school assessment system in which the federal government will tell Texas all our schools are below average.

In the federal Advanced Yearly Placement (AYP) ratings— known more conventionally as “No Child Left Behind”—, just about one-half of the state’s schools (48 percent) were listed as “failing” to meet government educational standards.

The standards are number-crunched test scores, grades 3-8 and 10, and they don’t do anything as simple as look at the number of kids passing a test. Schools can also get a “failing grade” if enough members of sometimes very small economic and ethnic sub-groups don’t hit a certain numerical level.

But that 48 percent number is probably much higher. Three Milam County campuses “met” the standards, two elementaries without the grades tested for AYP and a small high school with a 10th-grade class too small to quantify.

Just wait a couple of years. This year the dividing line was 87 percent “passing” in reading and 83 percent in math. That’s a moving target, up from 80 percent and 75 percent last year. But in 2014 the numbers will go up to 100 percent in each.

Is there politics involved? Will the sun rise tomorrow?

The big question, of course, is just how much do we learn from a system which is the same as taking a team that just had a 9-1 season and rating them on the one loss.

Looked at another way. This year a campus could make theequivalentofaBand“fail.”Intwoyearsyouhaveto be perfect or fail. When was the last time we required government at any level to be perfect or it “failed?”

Maybe we need to apply the same logic to AYP that it applies to Texas schools. Maybe it’s the scoring system that’s failing.—M.B.

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2012-08-16 digital edition

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