San Antonio Express-News
School districts, like the communities they serve, are unique. Some are large. Others are small. Some are wealthy. Others are poor. Some are ethnically homogenous. Others are diverse.
There are more than 1,000 independent school districts in Texas. As different as they are, the principal way the Texas Education Agency grades them all is by looking at test scores on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, which will be phased out beginning in the 2011-2012 school year.
There always have been and always will be opponents of standardized testing. Critics claim, with merit, that it forces schools to "teach to the test," rewards testing ability rather than academic performance and puts undue pressure on students. But standardized testing is one of the few ways available to measure school district accountability.
A different and more specific criticism is that the TAKS puts some districts at a distinct disadvantage. Small districts with a homogeneous student body have a much greater chance of TAKS achievement than large, diverse districts. In the latter, the TEA rates the performance of a larger number of subgroups, each of which must demonstrate achievement for the district to obtain the highest ratings.
An increasing number of school administrators and state legislators are calling for a change to the current formula. Given the diversity of school districts, the desire to change the way the state measures educational performance is understandable. That desire, however, should not mask an effort to evade accountability that serves the educational interests of all Texans.