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What Does Exemplary REALLY Mean?

What does Exemplary REALLY mean? 

It’s a complicated question, and a controversial one. 

On the one had, a school’s Exemplary rating tells parents, kids, and the community that the school is top notch. 

But on the other hand, when you receive an Exemplary rating based on 90% of your student population scoring anywhere from 55% to 78% on the TAKS test, schools and districts are celebrating mediocrity.   Unfortunately, this is the truth of it.  As of the 2006 TAKS test, the “passing” Standard was between 55% and 78% of questions answered correctly, depending on the particular test.”. It hasn’t changed since then.  

Our questions: When did a ‘C’ become the standard for Exemplary, and why are we not striving to reach higher?  

A truer measure of how well a school and/or district is education their students would be to look at the Commended scores.  These would be equal to students scoring in the ‘A’ and ‘B’ range on the TAKS.  A Commended score, then, would indicate mastery of a subject.  

“Education officials now recognize that taking a snapshot in time of children at a certain grade level does not fully reflect how well school districts are educating children – especially those who are most vulnerable.” 

Additionally, looking a test scores, while providing valuable information about the learning going on in that child’s life, does so only on one level.  High stakes testing lends itself to an environment of teaching to the test.  What is taught is what is to be tested; what is compromised are other curriculum areas and higher level thinking.  The TAKS does not give a complete look at the education our children are receiving.  Kids are being taught curriculum areas in testing bubbles.  When the high stakes testing is over, “pop”, the bubble is gone–and so is the supposed learning.  Test those kids a month later, and see how consistent the scores will be.

Carroll ISD/Southlake superintendent David Faltys says: The exemplary rating is “a benchmark people use to tell the quality of our schools,” superintendent David Faltys said. “But we try to address the TAKS, then move on to higher-level thinking as quickly as we can because that’s what our community expects.”  If curriculum is delivered and mastery is achieved, the bottom line is that our students will score well on any test they are given.  Teaching to the test may ensure an Exemplary school/district rating, but it also ensures a drill and kill mentality and, ultimately, stagnant schools. 

Is celebrating mediocrity really what we want for our students?