This is TAKS week here in the Texas schools. As a 10th grader, I take four tests this year. Some years we take two and other years three or four, but this is the big year that determines how well our school does compared to other schools. For us as students, every year matters because certain classes are open or closed for the following year depending on whether we pass or fail the tests. But for the school, 10th grade test scores are the ones that decide how well the whole school does. Some schools can even close if their scores are still low.
The Texas Education Agency has told the Austin school district that it needs to use the word “probable” — not “possible” — when referring to the closure of Johnston High School, district officials said.
The shift in verbiage was made at the suggestion of state officials who are part of Johnston’s oversight team because they wanted to underscore the urgency of the situation at the school in East Austin.
Agency officials have said the school, which has received “unacceptable” ratings for the past four years, will be closed or put under alternative management if it fails to achieve an acceptable rating this year.
Under the state’s accountability system, schools are rated “academically unacceptable” if they don’t meet target graduation rates and goals on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.
Are we being deliberately undereducated or miseducated? Is our whole generation being purposefully denied essential elements of a meaningful education as a byproduct of spending all of our schooling preparing for tests? Is that an accident?
Here’s the disturbing part. The bureaucrats don’t care if WE improve individually from year to year. They don’t care if our CLASS improves. They only care that we do better than last year’s 10th grade, even if they were a bunch of idiots or a bunch of screw-ups or a bunch of genii. By extension, BETTER doesn’t mean that our average is higher than last year’s class. It means that a larger percent of white kids pass (70%) than last year; a larger percent of black kids, a larger percent of immigrants, a larger percent of girls, a larger percent of poor kids, a larger percent of left-handed kids, and a larger percent of soccer players who only eat ice cream for breakfast.
This means that kids like me who get 90% or 99% every time only spend a THIRD of our school time learning how to answer the test questions and regurgitate essays. The poor kids, meanwhile, who got ONLY 60%-80% spend ALL their time on nothing but test practice. Kids in honors or pre-AP or advanced classes learn some other material and get interesting projects from time to time, like in-class debates, short story assignments and geometry construction projects, but the kids in academic or regular classes have every single test look like a TAKS question. That is not an exaggeration.
Last year, my test scores were all above 92%. I could go down by 10 points in every single subject and no one would care. If I went down 20 points, my brother would wring my neck and I’d probably have to drop some honors classes and possibly lose the chance for AP US History, but the state and the government STILL wouldn’t care. I would be within acceptable parameters.
Our school would still show improvement even if every single kid in honors right now dropped to 71% as long as one kid whose older sibling failed last year passed this year. That’s crazy!
Clearly they don’t care whether we as individuals pass as long as the scenario I have presented makes my high school look good. What’s the point? Could it be that the point really is to dumb down yet another generation; to keep us from learning about the Constitution and our rights. Only in understanding them both may we learn when our republic is at its BEST.