Sunday, March 22, 2009

School accountability proposal comes with risk

The proposed changes to accountability noted in this editorial track and stratify youth based on high-stakes standardized testing. What's also of concern and not mentioned here is that "college-readiness" is based on reaching a "college ready" score on two standardized end-of-course exam in Algebra II and English III. These scores have yet to be determined, btw. It's no secret that this will impact the African American and Latino communities the most.

The big question is who and what supports college-readiness being determined by a standardized test? Given the previous post "The High Cost of TAKS" we can see who benefits and it's not youth. Let's also not forget that recently the University of California system decided to move away from the use of the SAT II standardized test and use a more "comprehensive review" of applicants because (and I quote) "[the] Subject Test rule was excluding many otherwise qualified applicants but not helping predict undergraduate performance." The exams were also stated as being “an unnecessary barrier to access." See UC Drops Subject Tests

Sounds like Texas is moving backwards at the expense of minority youth.


Editorial: School accountability proposal comes with risk
Friday, March 13, 2009

The way Texas measures and evaluates its public schools is like a big, gas-guzzling family car that doesn't fit in an age of smaller, more efficient hybrids. Launched in 1993 and retooled along the way, the state accountability test and ranking of schools no longer works as envisioned – not when barely 60 percent of Texas students graduate high school and only 35 percent go directly to college.

That's why we appreciate what state Sen. Florence Shapiro and Rep. Rob Eissler are attempting to forge with their new accountability system. The proposal by the Republican leaders of the Legislature's education committees captures some of the latest trends in education, including measuring how much students grow in a subject during a school year. That's a change from assessing them on whether their students simply passed the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test.

That said, their proposal worries us in several ways:

First, the plan's two-tier high school track risks putting too many young Texans on a low trajectory.

Under their plan, ninth-graders would face a choice. They could get on track to graduate with a Texas Diploma, which would prepare them for college. Or they could choose the track toward a Standard Diploma, which would equip them with skills to land a good job after high school or perhaps attend community college or trade school. Either way, Shapiro and Eissler say, students would be "post-secondary" ready.

But here's the risk: Texas easily could end up with a majority of its students on the Standard Diploma track, instead of the more demanding Texas Diploma track. Let's face it: We already struggle with getting enough kids ready for college. Only about 20 percent of Texas students graduate truly prepared for a university, and the vast majority of minority students are not among them.

There's no doubt that equipping students with basic skills would make school more relevant to some of them, and most work has value. But the two-track option could shortchange the kid who wakes up when he's 35 and realizes, I didn't want to be a machinist all my life.

It also opens up a risk for the state, which could end up with more electricians than engineers. Raymond Paredes, who heads Texas' higher education commission, is absolutely right: Texas will do great harm to its economy if it doesn't prepare enough kids for college.

Which leads us to point two. Legislators better darn sure give incentives to schools to get more kids on the college ready track. And we mean a four-year college that leads them to either a master's degree or a job where they are good at innovation, creativity and problem solving.

Our third concern is related. This college track needs to be as advertised. No handing students off to colleges knowing they'll need remedial classes to catch up. No phony substitute certificates. And no passing kids along in their early grades with a wink and a nod. We mean ready for college.

Shapiro and Eissler envision this new system being among the best in America within 10 years. We certainly hope they're right, just as we hope it leads to more Texas students graduating, instead of dropping out.

But we strongly urge legislators to create clear incentives for schools as early as the elementary grades to encourage students toward the college-ready track, one that truly prepares them for a four-year institution. Otherwise, we could shortchange them and, ultimately, the state's economy.

No comments:

Post a Comment