08/04/12 — The tests: We need a better way to judge what education success really is

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The tests: We need a better way to judge what education success really is

Another round of tests is out, and there is a new batch of good news about Wayne County Public Schools.

Several schools have shown improvement in their scores, and there are more children hitting their marks when it comes to end-of-grade testing.

And at the state level, the graduation rate continues to hover around 80 percent -- not perfect by any means, but still, better than it has been.

So what does all this mean? No one really knows. Sure, the numbers say that things are getting better and that more and more children are prepared for careers or college when they leave high school.

But those who are in the know around the state and country say that is not really so. They warn that students might be moving on and getting diplomas, but not all of them have the skill levels they need to get and to keep jobs or to even succeed in college.

So what do we do as a community, a state and a nation to combat this "information gap"? How do we tell what the right answers are to the proper questions that will result in a better education system and a better way to judge its success or failure?

There is likely no one person with that answer -- although more than a few have claimed they have it.

So, we muddle on.

This nation will continue the "try anything" approach when it comes to education and school performance.

And in some cases, that means "blame anyone."

So we rail against teachers, administrators and others who toil in the classrooms and school yards across the country and in our own backyard. We ask them to fix problems in eight hours that we cannot fix in our homes and neighborhoods. We acknowledge that social problems exist, but then forget about that truth when we are wondering why teachers can't get students to take an interest in learning.

We call for more spending on our physical plants, while forgetting to ask when the last time is we had the funds for textbooks.

Truth is we are all a little mixed up.

As a new school year dawns, the question will come up again: "What makes a good school and how do we get more of them?"

There is no easy answer to that one -- no matter what an officeholder, a candidate or a pundit tells us.

But perhaps the bottom line is we have a lot of other important stuff to fix first -- and that when we do, we will see real progress.

Education might be the symptom, but the disease is centered in misplaced priorities and a reluctance to address the real issues that stand in the way of better schools.

So that is where we start -- if we really want to make the future better for our children.

Published in Editorials on August 4, 2012 11:34 PM