“94 percent are doing a dang fine job.”
So says an education bureaucrat about the effectiveness of education in Texas.
On what basis could such a bloated assessment be made? It certainly doesn’t square with the fact that just above 35 percent of students graduate with college or career readiness.
What about the high rates of attrition and low rates of graduation from institutions of higher education, especially for our rapidly growing Latino population?
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And, as to our participation in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, on a subject where we do our best, 8th grade math, only 32 percent of our students perform at either the advanced or the proficient level.
Does any of that sound like “94 percent are doing a dang fine job?”
No, here’s where the 94 percent number comes from:
When the educrats last lowered the bar in the way the state evaluates schools’ performance, they pushed the education commissioner to give roughly 94 percent of the schools a passing grade.
Those doing “a dang fine job” were actually lumped together with the average, the mediocre and the not-quite-awful to make up 94 percent.
The Legislature created the A-F grading system in the 2015 session to correct for this shameful and dishonest grading system.
Under the new law, the commissioner published preliminary grades late last year for our schools.
The educrats didn’t like the grades, largely for two reasons: They weren’t as high as were the previous bloated grades, and the bases for some of the ratings could indeed have been improved.
Well, instead of working with the commissioner to improve them, what did the educrats decide to do?
They’re now pressing the Legislature to dump A-F or lower the bar further until they can get back as close as possible to being able to say “94 percent are doing a dang fine job.”
The question arises: Why don’t legislative leaders encourage the field to work with the commissioner to fine-tune the system he implemented?
The current law has plenty of give, including the opportunity to use other measures than test scores.
No, that wouldn’t satisfy the educrats. They want to go further than lowering the bar — they want to obliterate it altogether.
This is especially evident in the House bill the educrats are pushing. Here, local districts would be allowed to count input factors, output factors that can’t be objectively measured and tests based on standards other than the state’s to affect the ratings.
Schools wouldn’t even be given a grade, and the whole evaluation system would be postponed another year.
Why should we even pretend to have a state accountability system?
This is part of a continuing effort on the part of educrats and their enablers generally to lower the bar in education.
They pushed for and got a dumbing down of course requirements, especially in math and science.
They pushed for and got a dumbing down of our performance standards so that proficiency in key high school courses is not essential to graduation.
They pushed for and got, as mentioned above, a dumbing down of our accountability criteria so that virtually all schools get a passing grade.
The existential question arises: Does the system exist for the benefit of the adults who run it or the children it’s intended to serve?
Surely, we know that whether standards are raised or lowered is a good guide to the answer.
We raise standards when we care about results and require better results for children. We lower standards when we choose to prize others’ priorities.
Texas made great gains for our students in the 1990s and early 2000s. Since then we have fallen back badly.
It’s time, fellow citizens, to reverse course, for the sake of our state and our children.
Sandy Kress is an Austin consultant who helped draft the 2001 No Child Left Behind education law under President George W. Bush.