On the most recent administration of the NAEP, 40% of tested students in Texas were proficient in math, and 30% were proficient in reading. Of Texas’ high school graduates who take the ACT/SAT, data show that about 25% of them are truly college ready. Adjusting for dropouts and those who do not take these tests, the percent of 18 year olds in Texas who are college ready is closer to 15%.
Although there are many reasons for recent stagnation, none may be more significant than the way Texas has been rating and handling inadequacy in its schools in the past several years.
Based on the data, if graded on results, how do you believe Texas schools should rate today? On a liberal scale, maybe 20 percent, As; 20 percent, Bs; 25 percent, Cs; 20 percent, Ds; and 15 percent, Fs?
Well - here are the most recent ratings: 87% of the schools are deemed to have met standard; 7% require improvement; and 6% are not rated. What’s so very wrong with this picture?
First, it gives no credit to the schools that are doing extremely well or improving dramatically. Such schools are unfairly lumped in with the mass and get no credit in the ratings for excelling.
Second, the average schools get lumped in with the mediocre. This is unfair and inappropriate to the schools that are doing fairly well, could improve, but are well above the bottom quartile in results.
Third, this system sends no signals to those that might not be failing badly (but are not doing well) that they need to improve. Nor is it structured to provide resources and guidance - as the state used to do - with proven practices that improve teaching and learning. These schools simply get the signal that all’s fine.
Fourth, the schools that truly are failing are not all identified, and the ones that are are essentially only told improvement is required. The consequences of yesteryear - both carrot and stick - are generally no longer applied.
Fifth, and perhaps most compelling, the state is saying virtually all of its schools meet standard when fewer than half of its students do, at least as defined by the high standards they’ll have to live by in the real world.
Inadequate accountability is tantamount to no accountability. The accountability system in the past was hardly perfect and had weaknesses, too. But it did a far better job of stimulating student gains. Instead of strengthening it, we’ve diluted it badly. Today’s system, as described above, can hardly be considered to be one of real accountability. It pretends things are fine, though they’re not. And it has lost the power to incentivize improvement. We should not be surprised that results have suffered.
Texas has lost its way.