Wednesday, December 01, 2004

When academically acceptable just isn't enough

Texas District Court Judge John Dietz ruled in favor of hundreds of school districts that sued the State Board of Education and the Education Commissioner, among others. Remarkably, the school districts argued that the achievements required by accountability standards simply aren't enough! From the Judge's decision:

The Legislature has defined the objectives and mission of the public education system much more expansively than simply the provision of an "academically acceptable" education, as defined in the accountability system.

Nice. This is one of the biggest problems with any system that grades schools solely on standardized tests: there simply is no way to be sure that schools are providing, as required by the Texas Constitution, "a general diffusion of knowledge essential to the preservation and liberties and rights of the people." You especially cannot determine if that objective is being met if you only test for reading and math.

Judge Dietz ruled that the Texas Legislature must change the system of school finance by October 1, 2005 so that the school districts can fulfill its broader mission. Of course, there will be an appeal and the spineless Texas State Supreme Court will almost certainly overrule Judge Dietz and allow the unconscionable status quo to continue. Let's hope they find their spines.

In the meantime, the Judge's decision makes for some interesting reading (yes, I'm a dork). But really, the prose is actually readable. You can read it here. Of course, there's quite a bit of legalese, but if you can get through that, it really is very interesting. Bravo, Judge Dietz.

Oh, and don't forget the national ramifications here. After all, it was the so-called Texas Miracle that led to the beginnings of No Child Left Behind. So was the Texas Miracle so great that literally hundreds of Texas school districts (including Rod Paige's Houston ISD) filed suit against the State because the weren't fulfilling their mission? Hmmmm...

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