A slap in the face, a lesson in the school of hard knocks, a casualty of well-intended legislation or whatever you want to call it, the students and staff at Rocky Mountain High School got a raw deal this month with the release of the Wyoming Accountability in Education report, rating them as not meeting expectations.
I’m still scratching my head, along with, I’m sure, many parents, teachers and administrators at how this group of bright, motivated students, who test as high as or higher than other students attending most schools in the state, can be mischaracterized like this (see related article).
Didn’t we learn our lesson from No Child Left Behind (NCLB), another dandy piece of legislation, where all of the complexities of educating students were not taken into account, ultimately resulting in nearly every school in the country on course for certain failure? Is the state of Wyoming now leading its students down a similar path paved with good intentions but headed toward disaster? Are the new WAEA ratings yet another system that puts pressure on teachers and students to “perform,” according to a very rigid set of criteria?
Students are already subjected to a battery of tests every year from MAP to ACT to PAWS, each with its own set of ever-changing rules. Whatever happened to teachers just teaching? What ever happened to using tests as a tool instead of a weapon? We have to ask ourselves in a world where these tests make or break the spirit of learning and confidence of many of those involved, are we now teaching to pass the test? I don’t think we can ignore that danger.
Should we turn away students who want to learn but for whatever reason might bring down our scores, like homeschooled kids who decide to attend their local brick and mortar or online school, because they don’t fit the WAEA mold? Though that may sound far-fetched, it is already happening in one online school in Wyoming, where credit-deficient ninth grade students, many of them making the transition from a home school environment where they do not earn credits, are already being turned away. Are these students, who genuinely want to learn, being turned away because they are deficient in credits and might lower the school’s WAEA ranking? Say it isn’t true.
Tests prove one thing: Some students are good test-takers and some are not. Let’s not throw those under the bus who are different, or who don’t fit a mold, and especially let’s not throw those under the bus, who have a desire to learn and improve. Let’s not use tests to judge and humiliate a certain group but instead use them as a valuable resource for improvement. Most of all let’s not set up our students to fail like we did with the NCLB mess, which clearly proved to us that educating our children is a highly complicated task where one size clearly does not fit all.
If we truly want to “leave no child behind,” we need to let everyone on the bus instead of throwing some under it. That’s accountability.
by Patti Carpenter