Those who know me, know that I am a strong proponent of school accountability and long time data geek. I bring that up, because with what I am about to suggest, I don’t do so lightly.
I don’t believe that the results from this years TAKS test should be used for anything, other than informational purposes. I write this, because a reasonable educator could destroy any argument supporting the validity of the tests this year. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I know that accountability is good for students; but here is my case against the test, for this year only…
Let’s start with the hurricanes. Gustav interrupted schools. Ike shut schools down. On the Gulf Coast, if you were lucky you only lost 5 to 10 days of instruction. If you were unlucky, you lost your school, your home and your community.
Then there is the on-going recession. In Texas, we’re “lucky?” The recession is only significantly impacting the poor, the under-educated and minorities. I’m sure that the added stress and disruption in those households probably has no impact on their children.
If the hurricanes weren’t enough, then came the floods this week. More lost instructional time, disrupted schedules and added stress during the most stressful week of the school year.
Finally, to complete the royal flush of bad luck, now the schools are dealing with the flu threat. At any given time on a campus, 5% to 10% of the people at school have some sort of cough, sniffles, aches, etc. Now, each cough is a potential life and death issue. But that’s okay – ignore the media onslaught; panicked parents; and your own mortality; and demonstrate on a one-shot test, what you have learned.
With all of these disasters occurring this year, here is the insidious truth. Everyone is not effected equally. The schools and students with the smallest margins of error and the least amount of available resiliency will be impacted the most. The impact that all of these tribulations have had on teaching and learning has an economic analogy:
If I have had a high paying job for a while, I have probably saved a little money that I can use and have some assets I can liquidate, if I lose my job. I can survive a temporary set-back. If I have a low paying job and live paycheck to paycheck just to survive, losing my job is devastating. Our most fragile students and campuses have been running full speed just to try to keep up. They can and expect to deal with one or two hurdles, but this year is all together another matter.
So, State of Texas, as our schools are fighting the good fight, in the face of near biblical, Old Testament ordeals, throw them a lifeline. Next year, they’ll cowboy up and get back on the accountability horse.
Think. Work. Achieve.