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Consistency is better for education

The Alabama State Department of Education released its report cards at the end of 2018, grading every public school in the state based on specific criteria from the 2017-18 school year. Overall, both the Chambers County School District and Lanett City Schools saw their scores rise, although both had a “C” overall average.

The current grading system was first used following the 2016-17 school year, meaning that administrators statewide were adjusting to the new criteria this year.

At a recent school board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge and the rest of the school board reviewed the report card. In their discussions, they expressed concerns on how the report card grades student performance. One of their worries was how academic achievement is based on one standardized test instead of the entire year of test taking. Another was how chronic absenteeism, according to the state, includes days taken off for medical reasons and college visits.

All of their concerns are valid ones, but the one that seemed to spark the most discussion was the fact that the state will yet again change the standardized tests next year.

In June, the Alabama Board of Education voted to authorize a contract with Data Recognition Corporation to create a test to replace the ACT Aspire. The current test is actually administered by Scantron, which basically filled the gap until a permanent test was selected to replace the ACT Aspire.

The state went away from the ACT Aspire, at least in part, because there were concerns that it wasn’t testing what students were being taught.

Obviously, if that’s the case, a new test needed to be picked.

But now, it’s important that the state sticks with the new test. A lot of time was spent to pick the test, including the creation of a test task force, and we can’t afford to keep changing the criteria just because we don’t like the final results.

These tests are used to judge their “academic growth” and need to remain in place for years to come so that the test has a fair and accurate way to determine if students are actually progressing.