We done been gittin' smarts

The more things change, the more they’re looking different.

By Pris Squires

Down here in Northern Mexico (formally Texas), the schools have been in a tizzy lately, clawing and scratching to try and achieve that enviable title of "Academically Acceptable," the level each school must reach before cozying up to the tax cash cow. Now, "academically acceptable" sounds good, don’t you think?

Most of the schools and parents were heaving large sighs of relief once they had managed to avoid that leprous designation of "Academically UN-acceptable." The very idea! But, wait until you read the fine print. In order to earn that "acceptable" rating on the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) test, the students/ schools had to pass at a rate of,

It appears that a failure rate ranging from 50% to 75% is good enough for government work, so to speak. For over 20 years, the Texas school system has formed, reformed and re-reformed its curriculum, trying to bring its students all the way up to seventy-five percent failure rate, this after pouring billions of dollars into the mix. How much of that huge amount of money has been wasted on every fuzzy curricular gimmick and cotton-fluff class to come down the pike, all of which feeds those consultants and excogitative experts who make their livings sucking up tax money on worthless educational schemes?

Recently the Austin American Statesman quoted Texas Commissioner of Education Shirley Neeley saying, "One of the great benefits of the Texas accountability system bottom line is that it shines a light on areas in which districts and schools need to work harder… Every superintendent, teacher and principal strives for that prestigious exemplary rating. I guarantee you, given time and resources, they can get there."

I wonder if she means that the few schools in this state managing to provide their students with quality education, given time and money, can be dragged down to the 50-25% failure level? I don’t want to reveal my age but when I was in high school and college, a 75% success rate was still failure, or at least the bottom of the rung to pass, and I guarantee you that any student walking across that stage to pick up his diploma could read what was on it.

Not so now. It seems that those in power just don’t get the fact that the people who created all this wonderful technology we enjoy today did it with readin’, writin’ and ’rithmatic, not "Women Is" studies or "Multicultural Appreciation" bubblegum classes. I suppose that does not matter, as long as the schools get their money. The system is a machine whose numbers, not quality, of output students grease its wheels. Too bad the product gets crushed in the mill. But that must be okay, we done been gittin’ smart. (I keep wondering just how bad a school would have to be to get an unacceptable rating? My, my, my.)

The First Freedom