With the release of the latest state test scores and the ever-increasing demands of No Child Left Behind, most of our school are finding that they have been left behind. Administrators lament that their districts' images have been unfairly tarnished.
Yet they also acknowledge that the program served to shock them awake, to make them pay attention to disadvantaged students who came from poor homes or minority homes or spoke limited English or had disabilities. We believe it served a valid purpose.
The design flaw seems to be that eventually everyone would fail -- only 11 Illinois high school made adequate yearly progress last year. Like steadily raising the score for an A from 90 percent up to 100 percent, eventually very few A's will be given.
Does increasing the standard make a student work harder? Does moving the target make a student give up on an unattainable goal?
Demoralizing educators or students is not a valid long-term strategy. They both need expectations and standards, but hope and encouragement are also key.
The trick is balancing the two so that we don't create artificial confidence by lowering standards so that they think they are doing better. We shouldn't dumb down the tests.
There is hope in the new system. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test will be given in Illinois and 22 other states beginning in 2014. It will be given at intervals throughout the school year.
Giving everyone the same test, and issuing more than one report card, fits the old school model. We hope it works.
But we also worry about the students who were in the special populations. They must not again be allowed to fall through the cracks.
School leader and teacher accountability for progress is a standard we should not compromise.