Accountability that will work by James Largent

December 1, 2012

Accountability that will work

As the elections are now over and we approach another Legislative session, I want to talk to you about two issues that will get lots of media attention – the testing/accountability system and vouchers. For this article, I want to address the accountability system, and in my next article I will address vouchers.

I have no problem with a reasonable accountability system. Schools are spending taxpayer dollars, and I completely understand the fact that we must be accountable to our taxpayers for the quality of education we provide our students. HOW we are held accountable is the issue.

Any accountability system should recognize all the good things we are doing in public education and not just penalize (and publicize) the areas where we don’t reach some computer model of what “successful” is. We have a system now that only focuses on the negative, and this must change.

I would love for our Texas elected officials to take the same tone regarding education as they take with Washington. We continually hear our elected officials say that the people of Texas know what is best for Texans, and Washington should just send money in block grants and let us spend it the way we think is best.

My idea is one that all politicians – Republicans and Democrats – should embrace, because it echoes what they say to the media all the time. My plan will save hundreds of millions of dollars, requires smaller government, and will allow local communities to operate their schools the way they think is best. Let me lay out my ideas for you:

First, let’s agree on what it is we want for our students. I think most of us would agree that when students graduate, we want them to either be prepared for college, a technical school, or ready to go in to the workplace. So, what do we have that measures that? Instead of spending $200 million per year on a “bubble test” why don’t we look at actual numbers that are readily available now?

First, and most importantly, use the grades that professional educators assign in their courses to students they work with every day. For younger students, we have a variety of screening instruments that will validate whether or not a student is on grade level or not. As students get older, we have the PSAT, Explore and PLAN tests that are all nationally recognized. For college-bound students, we have the ACT and SAT scores, which are already used to test whether or not students are “college-ready.”

No college in America asks a student how they scored on a TAKS or STAAR exam. Instead we should use actual numbers of students who are accepted to college, enroll in technical schools, or go in to a meaningful job, the military or an apprenticeship after high school.

The current mess of a testing system used in Texas has gotten so complicated and changes so frequently that no one understands it – and it is impossible to explain. For this reason alone, it is meaningless to our public.

As we move through our strategic planning process in GISD, we will be focused on what our community believes is important for our students. We will teach a robust and challenging curriculum and offer students a wide variety of courses and activities to prepare them to be a well-rounded and productive member of society.

Hopefully the legislators will listen to their communities, the educators who are actually working in schools and are the experts in education, and will finally say enough is enough with this archaic and ineffective system.

We are long past a time when penciling in a multiple choice test on one day a year is the best way to evaluate how well our students are doing in 2013 and beyond.

To suggest column topics for Dr. Largent, he can be reached at [email protected]

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Category: Education Archived