It occurred to me that I haven't done an education piece in awhile. As the school year gets going, people are going to be more and more concerned with TAKS scores. TAKS scores seem to be the life blood of our industry. My campus was one student away from being exemplary (the top rating). We had to "settle" for being recognized. Being recognized on the heels of Ike is a huge accomplishment for our campus. Losing nearly three weeks of instruction on top of our challenging demographics (most students are on free or reduced lunch) meant we had to really work to get that done.
Yet, those outside the industry have to really wonder what these scores all mean. It would be easy to assume that students have to get 70 percent of the questions right in order to pass and you have to have a certain percentage of students pass in order to acceptable, recognized, and explemary. It's never that simple and it's one of the many reasons why I never envy the job the head principal has.
The reality is that the standards for students passing the test and the standards for campuses and their ratings changes from year to year. The scoring standards will change based on the difficulty of the test. On most math and science tests, the students have to get closer to 50 percent of the questions right. Last week, the big news item was the fact that the terror ratings for homeland security were altered based on political pressure. While that is awful, that pales in comparison to the political pressure put on those that administer and score the TAKS tests. If you follow the standards closely, you will notice that standards for passing the test go down during election years. Every politician wants to take credit for better tests scores.
So, the increase or decrease in scores may be nothing but an illusion. We came to find out this year that students could fail the test and still count for the campus being recognized or exemplary if they were "epected" to pass the test within two years. So, the end result is that there are more schools that are becoming exemplary, recognized, and acceptable than there were before. When a school closes because of too many consecutive unacceptable ratings it hurts everyone politically. The community is mad that their school is being closed, the state looks bad because they have a school that is failing, and the district really gets it in the teeth because they've "allowed it to happen." So, why not tweak the standards some so everyone can be happy?
The good news is that the TAKS is going away in another couple of years. The bad news is that it will be replaced with something. That something appears to be end of course exams. All standardized testing has its bugaboos and the major one is the tug of war between holding to a firm but attainable standard or whether to adjust the standard if or when students are unable to meet it. Either way, it is yet another example of politicians shying away from a challenge.