State officials need to find a way to level the playing field, to measure the progress schools are making in overcoming whatever challenges they face.
The state took a good first step this year when it began to consider student growth in its evaluation system. That, after all, is what this scoring system should be all about.
Are the students learning? Are they making progress? Did they score better this year than they did the year before?
The problem with the state’s scoring system is that it gives students credit for “high growth” only if their gain is better than two-thirds of all students at their testing level. That means that only a third of Indiana students will get such credit regardless of how much they improve.
What’s the point of that?
The knock on these assessments from the beginning has been their emphasis on passing rates. Certainly, we want our students to pass standardized tests. We want them to display a grasp of the basics.
But we also want them to learn.
Which should be the measure of success? Maintaining a high passing rate on statewide tests or showing progress from one year to the next?
My argument is that it should be the latter.
This is particularly true for school corporations such as Logansport with a high number of students who struggle academically. If a student scores better than he or she did a year ago, that should benefit a school’s rating, even if he or she fails the test. If the student scores worse, that should be chalked up as a negative, even if he or she passes the test.
The goal for all schools should be to teach, to deliver knowledge to their students. And their success in accomplishing that should be the measuring stick by which all schools are judged.
If the state’s new school superintendent accomplishes nothing else in her tenure, I hope she will accomplish that.
Kelly Hawes is managing editor of the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.