07/27/08 — The task ahead - Valid assessment can't ignore schools that lag

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The task ahead - Valid assessment can't ignore schools that lag

It is not hard to understand why the Wayne County Board of Education and school officials would be excited to learn that the district's 56 percent Adequate Yearly Progress mark was No. 2 in the region and that so many other districts were so far below that number.

Good news is much more fun to talk about.

So board chairman Thelma Smith might be excused for thinking that emphasizing those schools -- and the students within all the schools -- who did not get the required scores to get the state nod was a sign that no one in general -- and the newspaper in specific -- is appreciating the accomplishment of being No. 2.

But, with all respect to Mrs. Smith, those are the numbers and the schools that she should want to talk about, too.

The No Child Left Behind legislation has been snake-bitten from the start. The idea is good -- make sure all children in all schools are performing at grade level by 2013. Easy enough, right? Divide the children up into measurement groups and then concentrate on pushing each group until all its members can meet that goal -- what could be simpler than that?

The problem is that children perform differently and some are battling much more than a slight tendency to be uninterested in improving their education. Some have learning disabilities, while others come from homes that not only de-emphasize learning, but also offer environments that can destroy a child's life before it starts.

No amount of aggressive teaching and determined administrating can reverse that.

So while the students, staff and administrators should be proud that they have placed among the leaders, they should not be content with a 56 percent or 17 schools -- no matter how you look at it.

And it seems that those in charge of doing the educating aren't content. School officials seem to be very focused on making sure those numbers go up -- and not resting on the laurel that there are so many other districts in so much worse shape.

The reality is that more than 40 percent of the 30 schools measured in this latest round of tests still are not getting enough children to pass. And in each of those schools -- and in those that have already made the AYP mark -- there are still a good number of children who won't be at grade level by 2013.

Pointing out that fact does not intimate that school officials are not doing their jobs, Mrs. Smith. It suggests that our priority ought to be pointing out where there is still work to be done, not spending too much time being relieved we are at 56 percent.

A lot of hard work has gone into improving education in Wayne County -- and lots of people have volunteered their time and effort to get the resources and personnel necessary to do the job properly.

There are teachers and administrators all over this county who have given up their time and have struggled mightily to find new ways to reach students.

This 56 percent mark is a wakeup call for all of us.

Want better schools?

Face the challenges and be part of the effort.

There is more work to be done.

Published in Editorials on July 27, 2008 11:16 AM