In the last few days, I saw news of this Texas Education Agency release: http://tea.texas.gov/About_TEA/News_and_Multimedia/Press_Releases/2016/TEA_releases_2016_accountability_ratings/
In it, I see that the powers-that-be have rated over 90% of Texas school districts and just under 90% of Texas campuses as “met standard.” A mere 5% of them “required improvement.”
Yet, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath says that only about 30% of Texas students graduate ready for college OR other similar training. According to charts prepared by Texas Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes, only 20% of Texas students receive a postsecondary credential and barely over 10% of disadvantaged students get such a credential. http://www.politifact.com/texas/article/2016/jun/08/do-80-percent-texas-high-school-graduates-still-fl/
The fundamental question is: how in the world can a system be constructed in which 90% of the bureaucratic units responsible for education are being rated as “met standard” when, against the standard most students must meet when they graduate to get good-paying jobs, only 30% of them, at best, meet standard?”
Perhaps one could argue that IF our schools and districts were improving so quickly and so significantly they ought to be given some extra credit for it. But this is not at all the case. As I have blogged ad nauseam, Texas now has flat-to-declining national assessment scores; it now has flat-to-declining SAT/ACT scores; it now has slower-growing postsecondary completion percentages; and it is barely making any gains against state performance levels that are still well below those teacher panels recommended years ago.
Perhaps one could argue that the bar for “met standard” for adults should for some reason be lower than it is for students or that the bar for both ought to be lower than that of student readiness for college or career. I actually think most reasonable observers might, to some degree, be sympathetic with this argument if the ratings weren’t so outrageously out of bounds.
Will some students succeed in life if they graduate at lower levels? Yes, though their opportunities for success are declining as the good jobs that are available, even those in technical areas, require that students meet ever-increasing standards. Should schools receive credit for achieving success in other ways? Perhaps.
But let’s take a poll of taxpayers, regular citizens, and even parents on this: How many believe that only 5% of our schools require improvement? Ask the public what the real number might be. 40%? 30%? Surely, there would be very few Texans who believe the number is less than 20%.
Indeed when Commissioner Morath was confronted in the Politifact article with the real numbers on student readiness, he is quoted as saying:
"We clearly need to continue to improve.” Well - if that’s so, why the heck did your agency conclude that only 5% of the schools and districts require improvement, Mr. Commissioner?
For most citizens who confront such foolishness and absurdity, this is indeed a story from Alice in Wonderland:
“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad."
"How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland