08/06/05 — A starting point: Accountability tests are just one indicator of achievement

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A starting point: Accountability tests are just one indicator of achievement

The numbers are out, and now the Monday morning quarterbacking begins.

The final ABC accountability results for Wayne County Schools were released Thursday, and many people around the county will soon be talking about which schools were at the top of the performance list and which weren’t.

And it would make sense that simply looking at a raw list of test results would give you all the information you need to draw a conclusion about how your child’s school compares to others across the state, and whether or not the staff there is doing its job.

But it is not that simple.

The scores are based on the results of assessment tests given to the students at certain grade levels. And while they can tell you a lot about where the children stand as far as understanding and learning, they do not give you a clear picture of how well a school is doing or what needs to be fixed.

Teaching children these days is complicated. There are many more factors that can influence how a student performs — home life, preparation in the early grades as well as the environment in which they live. Sometimes those factors overpower any effort at learning and goal-setting.

While a quality school can help a child maximize his or her potential, teachers and administrators cannot miraculously turn a child who has no support at home, or who has been unable to grasp some basic concepts early on, into a straight-A student.

And then there is the testing factor. The ABC rankings are based on test results. Some children simply do not test well.

So, while there might be a tendency to jump to a conclusion about the effectiveness of Wayne County’s schools simply by looking at where which school ranks on the list, the better analysis would be what factors influenced the scores and what steps should be taken to overcome the deficiencies.

Pointing fingers and casting about for blame will not increase test scores or make the county’s average grades and graduation rates higher. There are few, if any, teachers and administrators in this community who are not doing everything they can to get their students interested in learning and pushing them to be successful at it.

These test results and state rankings are a good starting point for those who care about helping as many Wayne County children as possible get the quality education they deserve.

But they are only a place to start.

Considering other factors, and how to manage them, as well as getting parents and the community involved in supporting and improving our schools, are critical components to actually turning lower grades into achievable expectations.

And that is where we need to look, too, as we start really analyzing Wayne County’s report card.

Published in Editorials on August 6, 2005 11:09 PM