OPINION COLUMNS

AYP reports fail the test

By Messenger Staff | Published Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Earlier this month, we learned that all school districts besides Chico in Wise County are failing.

That’s at least in the eyes of the federal government and their newest Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) report. Alvord, Boyd, Bridgeport, Decatur, Northwest, Paradise and Slidell failed to meet the high standards of No Child Left Behind that required 87 percent of students to pass reading/language arts tests and 83 percent to pass math. Along with the overall student body being required to meet the lofty goals, every subgroup must also meet those high marks.

To meet those standards, districts would have been recognized or exemplary in the last accountability rankings by Texas Education Agency. The state skipped the ratings this year as they ushered in the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR).

To meet AYP in two years, 100 percent of students must pass.

While we all want to see every kid succeed, it is more of a pipedream than a reality – especially if a test is a true measure of how well students grasp content.

But that raises a larger question, how is one test truly a measure of a school’s success rate? And are we sending kids to learn a test or get an education?

Unfortunately in today’s education, ratings receive so much attention and communities are painted with a broad brush of being good or bad based on what their schools are rated. And what do the ratings really mean? Good luck trying to hunt down the information easily on the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

If we insist on rating schools – which may not be fully necessary – there has to be a more complete and fair way that doesn’t punish schools for having more students of a certain population as another school. Under the current structure, if a school doesn’t have so many students in a subgroup, it’s not counted. That means all schools are not graded equally.

Also schools shouldn’t be graded by their worst students. Currently, a school may have the entire student body scoring above 90 percent, and if one subgroup lags behind, that campus or district receives that rating.

As more than one school official has pointed out recently, this may be the only profession where that happens. Even in the far-from perfect NCAA football, teams are not penalized for one part of the team struggling if the squad as a whole performs.

More needs to be part of the accountability ratings than just the alphabet-soup test of the day, graduation rates and attendance. Measurable progress – which is a complicated part of the current formula – the number of students pursuing advanced diplomas and college preparedness tests results need to be factored in. Credit should also be given to achievements in fine arts, academic contests and other areas that are part of a well-balanced school and producing the true aim of our education system – helping to grow and nurture well-rounded students that are prepared to contribute to society.

Some of our schools may have problems, and as any educator will tell you, they can always do better. But those shortcomings are not what the federal or state will show you with their ratings – which may be one of the biggest problems of all.

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