We Need More Honesty from our School System about Student Achievement

This letter to the Editor was published in the Douglas County Sentinel on Sunday, Sept. 17th.

Dear Editor,
DCSS has a bad habit of issuing misleading reports to the public on student achievement. The reports are misleading mainly due to what they conceal. High graduation rates were announced without telling us test scores were lower than the state across the board and that dubious online courses were used to drive up rates; CCRPI increases that same year were touted without disclosing that the ‘increases’ were only due to major changes in the formula; district gains in SAT scores in 2016 were celebrated without revealing that they had declined in 3 of 5 high schools, and that, according to data we obtained through open records request, less than 3% of all graduates who took the SAT scored in the top 10 percentile (19 from DCHS; 2 from AHS; 1 from CHHS; and none at the others).
Recently, in the Sentinel, we learned of ACT score increases. It’s fine to report those, of course, but it must be put in proper perspective.  Conspicuously missing from the report was the fact that our 19.8 average is significantly below the 21.4 state average, and well below the minimum score of 26 students need to qualify for a full HOPE scholarship. By only reporting the increase and leaving out this context, DCSS conveys a positive impression to the public that is false. Likewise, the system conveyed in writing that DCSS ‘outperformed’ most districts in the metro area, when orally, in person, they merely claimed that more of our schools performed better than was expected of them. Most nearby district’s test scores are far better!
The school system needs to examine the intent and effect of such pronouncements. Who really benefits from the creation of such misperceptions? Surely not our children! A recent study by the parent group Learning Heroes found that nationally while only 1 of 3 8th graders are proficient in math and reading, 9 of 10 parents of 8th graders believe their kids are proficient.  If we are misled into thinking that our children are doing well academically, how can we hold the schools accountable? And how can we make sure our kids get the changes and support they need to get the kind of education that actually prepares them well for the future?
Jeremy Noonan


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