By Dr. Scott Alsobrooks, PRCC
The Picayune Item
School rankings were just released, indicating how well Mississippi schools performed in regards to standardized test scores. Now that we are truly in the so called era of accountability with our public schools, communities can see how local schools “stack up” against each other. The consequences for teachers, administrators, economic developers and others can be high. Even those in real estate pay close attention. Have you ever seen a “house for sale” ad, stating that a given address is in a certain school district?
The public schools today appear quite different from the schools of yesteryear. Yes, tests were administered and scored; but in a much more relaxed approach. There were no set aside school days dedicated solely for standardized tests. Today, youth organizations such as band/music, dancing and sports go into idle mode during school test days. Kids are told they cannot participate in fun activities, in which much learning takes place, due to school testing. Some of life’s most valuable lessons are learned in areas outside of the classroom and beyond the standardized test. Yet there is no measure attached to these areas.
Furthermore, in defense of the teachers and administrators, there are so many external factors that go into a student’s ability to score well on a test and influence the outcome. Imagine if a community’s healthcare system was graded solely on death rates, disregarding other factors such as diet, tobacco use, etc. Certainly communities that gorge on fried food and have a high percentage of smokers will have an adverse death rate; this is of no fault to the doctors. The same could be said for fire departments. Damage due to fire is much heavier in areas prone to drought and high temperatures, yet we do not place blame on fire fighters that choose to live in arid regions.
No standardized test score can quantify what happens in a school. Just like with doctors and fireman, there are too many external factors to take into account to solely grade a school just on test scores alone. While determining a child’s skill at rote memorization, which is at the heart of standardized tests, is basically the only measurements of school performance currently published, other measures could be incorporated.
Perhaps local citizens could be asked to grade their school. After all, public schools are funded by local taxpayers; it could be the time to find other measures of school performance other than just scores on standardized tests.