Relabeling Failure Leads to Increased Success

Originally published by AMERICANSCAPEGOAT.COM

July 7, 2014

It is 2014, the year that NCLB had scheduled for American students’ performances on high stakes bubble tests to reach a glorious saturation point marked by 100% passing rates.  We may not have hit our target, but according to some, we still have cause to celebrate. Here in Texas, TEA (Texas Education Agency) recently boasted about the tremendous gains that students have achieved in Biology and Algebra I.  Remarkably, 86% of Texas students who took the Algebra I exam in 2014 managed to pass the test, clearing one of the five exam hurdles that serve as a requirement for graduation in the state.  The proof is in the pudding,  one might say.  The trouble is that you have to read labels very carefully these days to know just what’s being served up to you.  As it turns out, the scores that TEA reported are even more misleading than the claims in a Kevin Trudeau infomercial.

The bar was set preposterously low for the students who took the Algebra I test in 2014.  Students were only required to answer twenty out of a total of fifty-four questions correctly, allowing for a passing score of 37%.  Unwilling to be content with resting on its laurels, TEA has plans to raise the passing rate to 50%.  This slightly more demanding expectation should ensure that students will have to struggle a bit before they achieve the misguided self-assurance that comes from an inflated sense of accomplishment.  As current prevailing wisdom dictates, it is essential that new graduates manage to maintain absurdly high levels of self-esteem as it may just be that delusions are their best protection against being devastated by the harsh reality of being woefully unprepared for facing a future beyond the shelter of their parents’ wings.

Teachers in the state of Texas generally appear to have a fair idea of where to find the leakiest holes in our collective boat.  Unfortunately, they are also susceptible to the widespread epidemic of denial that plagues our society.  There is false hope that things will get better as we gain more understanding of the STAAR test, our newest NCLB measuring stick.  Dreams sometimes do come true, but it is seldom wise to bet on them.  This August, a new crop of 6th graders will be entering middle schools, and most of them will have been firmly held to the requirement of answering 54% of the Math and Reading questions on their STAAR tests correctly.  Knowing that these students are only expected to be armed with approximately half of the knowledge that our state education standards call for them to carry away from elementary school is alarming.

One would like to believe that the annual tab of $90 million that taxpayers in Texas shell out to Pearson Education is worth the cost, but that would be a hard case to make in light of the numbers.  Of course, the $90 million figure only scratches the surface of what is spent once one figures in the costs incurred by local school districts, individual campuses, and private citizens.  It appears that we’ve managed to passively accept a future that promises to fund sustainable levels of failure for many years to come.  The days ahead look bright for this new failure industrial complex.