Today in the Dallas Morning News, an article tried to explain how one student's TAKS test score determined the entire Sam Houston Middle School's rating. That is, the Texas Education Agency had downgraded this school's designation from "recognized" to "acceptable". The Irving Independent School District did what any sane administrator would do and appealed the downgraded rating. Luckily, the TEA came to their collective senses and returned their higher rating.
On the surface, having one school lose its rating doesn't seem like that big of a deal. It even sounds harmless, these labels assigned by the TEA: "exemplary", "recognized", "acceptable", etc. However innocuous labels sound, they have repercussions beyond the academic year. In my opinion, motivated teachers flock to schools that receive higher ratings. This in turn promotes high morale between student and educator, and the momentum propels the school forward as higher ratings keep the educators focused on learning. It's rainbows and unicorns so far.
Then there are schools that struggle with achieving even an "acceptable" rating. (Higher ratings mean more money, remember?) The stress levels of these educators begin to climb as the test date approaches, which gives them no choice but to focus their efforts on the test...
And thus, a "teach the test" cycle naturally follows.
The cycle is a direct result of a flawed system - a system that rewards schools that already have the support system and money in place to achieve higher scores, and punish the schools that need the most help. Many people have already recognized this flaw and a movement has already started to find another way to educate our kids.
As important as this story is regarding the school system in general, it also shows yet another glaring flaw with the education system that the TEA desperately needs to address. What do I mean? Well, I'll answer that with a simple question for the TEA: if just one student can determine the rating for an entire school, don't you think that your assessment procedures are fundamentally flawed?