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What we think: Seniors’ work is what matters

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By The Staff

The report card overall this past week for Shelby County Public Schools was pretty good: A solid B, we would offer.

That’s not to say the slightly improved test scores on the elementary and middle school levels were all that significant. We aren’t convinced the standardized testing really matters in measuring education quite as much as we sometimes would be led to believe.

What we liked best – and the extra credit that ultimately raised the grade we gave the district – was the significant and laudable improvement in the number of students getting credit for Advanced Placement courses.

Public schools in Kentucky are about to undergo another round of changes in the sorts of standardized testing that states employ to try to gauge whether their educational systems are working.

The so-called CATS test in Kentucky will give way to a system that includes course credit as part of the formula. This is believed to be a motivator for students who, particularly on the high school level, sometimes see little need for doing their best on tests that don’t really matter to them.

Their fates already had been determined by those tests in elementary and middle schools, when their academic paths were divined and their study plans outlined through their final years of education.

The statistics would seem to bear out that philosophy: Shelby County’s commendable scores in elementary school – exemplified by the extraordinary success at Painted Stone Elementary – eroded somewhat in middle school and then fell into an unacceptable and arguably failing level in high school.

Established post-graduate plans and simple apathy contributed to the decline of those scores, and now educators who feel the quality of their work is measured by those factors are looking to light some sort of intellectual fire under the students by making the tests count toward the report cards.

Whether that works and ultimately matters shall be seen.

But for now we’ll employ as a grading scale our high school students’ knowledge and preparedness by that strong performance in AP classes, the great growth in students who applied and were accepted into colleges, the increasing number Governor’s Scholars and the hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships earned by graduates in 2009.

After all, if our high school seniors are learning sufficiently to move on to the next level, many of them not simply advancing but doing so in remarkable and outstanding ways, isn’t that the true measure of success of the 13-year educational process?

There is a new movie about to hit the theaters about public education. Called Waiting For Superman, this film depicts failing processes that are allowed to diminish the educational process for all.

And it says, in part, that the true measurement of success is the continued education by all, which is the key, many believe, the restoring our nation’s world standing in many ways.

We think there’s merit in that position, and we think Shelby Countians have evidence that some good work is being done here by committed teachers and students who want to learn, who want to grow, who want to enter life prepared and focused.

We believe that joint approach will work and that the best measurement of the quality of education will be apparent: We’ll have successfully educated adults entering the working world.