A Southern Teacher's Take

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Leaving Children Behind

State education agencies place a high premium on school districts' accountability ratings. That's a fact, it's reality, and it likely won't change anytime soon. And frankly, I don't fundamentally oppose testing kids yearly, whether to benchmark their progress or to determine the effectiveness of a school's/school district's instruction.

But there's an alarming trickle-down effect at play,here, and I'm interested to see how widespread it is.

A school district's rating is tied to its individual schools' ratings, which are determined based on test scores. And most campus principals' jobs are tied to those test scores, as well. The problem is this: principals will act (understandably) out of self-preservation and do what it takes to make the numbers more appealing. It's a product of the system.

What happens, then, when these test scores are disaggregated? We've got the Hispanic kids, the White kids, the African-American kids, the Asian kids, the special education kids, the economically disadvantaged kids...all types of kids. And these accountability ratings are predicated by satisfactory scores across the sub-population board. And then we find ourselves in situations where the principal is mandating that the teachers target Hispanic kids or African-American kids or kids whose parents don't make much money.

Suddenly, then, it's not about the kids. It's about the Hispanic number, the African-American number, the economically disadvantaged number.

Suddenly, then, we've got school administrators answering questions about a specific student by saying, "Don't worry about him; he's Asian."

Suddenly, then, we're only concnetrating on students whose scores are borderline; they'll take the least amount of time to bring to a passing level.

Suddenly, kids who have passed the test are being ignored. Kids who are Asian are being ignored. Kids who are white are being ignored. Kids who failed the test miserably and have seemingly no chance to pass this year are being ignored.

Suddenly, it ain't nothin' but a numbers game.

Soon, kids will be identified as Girl 907 instead ofAnna or Boy 125 instead of Jack. Images of Dickens' HARD TIMES dance before me. Something's gone wrong, folks. Kids have been relegated to figures, to statistics.

What happened?

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