Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

Editorial: Time to rid education of politicians

West Texans have a name for things like the state’s new school accountability system. We can’t print it here, but let’s just say it rhymes with “pull spit.”

Always on the lookout for a way to pander to voters, Texas Republicans, led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and others, dreamed up the idea of ranking schools from A to F.

How simple is that? Texans don’t need highfalutin things like percentages and or “met standards” to determine how well their schools are operating. Why not just give your local school district an A or a B or an F? And then, presumably, when enough public schools get Ds and Fs, we can pass legislation to encourage more “school choice,” whatever that means.

Roger Estlack, Editor

And so, the nimrods in Austin came up with a plan to “grade” schools based on a myriad of figures and statistics.

The result has been widely panned since the “preliminary” grades came out late last week that show how schools would be scored if the new system was in place. Clarendon ISD got three C’s and one F, which is curious considering how the state said the school met all its standards just five months ago.

But like so many things the Tea Party hacks have put forth, this new accountability system is all about politics and doesn’t make much sense.

Schools are scored in four dominions: Student Achievement, Student Progress, Closing the Gaps, and Post-Secondary Readiness. Let’s look at those one by one.

Student Achievement is basically how well students do on the STAAR test. There’s plenty to be said about high stakes, standardized tests… and none of it is very good. When you’re stressing a third grader out to the point he can’t sleep because of how he might do on a state test, something is wrong. The damnation of standardized tests is something that would take more room than this one paragraph will allow. Suffice it to say, Texas used to do just fine without them.

Dominion Two is Student Progress, which throws back to Dominion One. Basically, it’s based on how well a kid performs on the high stakes, standardized test this year compared to the last time he took the test. If you pass the test, but don’t score as well as the last time, the school system suffers. Getting back to the problem with standardized tests, no one takes into account what is happening in a kid’s life. This is just a snapshot of one day, one test, that we base whether or not a school is good or bad, passing or failing.

Dominion Three is pure social engineering. It wants to know how well the school performs in “Closing the Gap.” In other words, we’ve got poor kids and more affluent kids. Statistically, economically disadvantaged kids face more challenges in school. How you address that is beyond me. It doesn’t matter how good your school is if little Johnny’s dad has never been around, his mother can’t find work, and he had nothing for supper last night. The fact that little Johnny’s home doesn’t have Internet access and that the gas got shut off last Tuesday could have some bearing on his performance on the state’s stupid test. But the Austin pinheads want to judge your school based on how close we can get Johnny’s scores to those of his friend The Beaver, who lives in a perfect family with two bread-winners and a beautiful home.

Dominion Four is Post-Secondary Readiness, and there’s a lot of junk in that score as bureaucrats try to determine if everyone is ready to go to college. Clarendon High School does a pretty good job at that and has a lot of cooperative efforts with Clarendon College, so the very idea that CHS got an F in that category shows that something is horribly flawed somewhere… either with the methodology or the data itself.

Can Clarendon ISD be improved? I’m sure it can. But it nowhere near deserves the kind of scores this new system would have given it. Quite the opposite.

Clarendon has a good school system. The biggest problem with it can’t be found at the local level. The biggest problem our school has is the same problem Texas has in general… the Texas Legislature. In an ideal world, we’d separate politics from schools. The ongoing political pandering with our children as pawns is sickening. Schools can’t get used to one “accountability system” before something else is thrown at them. And all of it just ends up putting pressure on our kids and pressure on teachers… all for the sake of some petty politician being able to thump his chest.

We need our Legislators to man up and do something positive for education for a change… get the hell out of the way and let our teachers and administrators to their jobs.

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