Sorry schools, you don’t all get to call yourselves ‘exemplary’

If you want to know what happens when you give school districts a chance to grade themselves on their own accountability report cards, look no farther than Texas.

As the Houston Chronicle recently reported:

All but one out of 1,201 Texas school districts say they’re successfully engaging their students and community, according to results of mandatory self-evaluations released Monday by the state.

Texas schools all say they’re great at engaging students, communities — with 1 mystery holdout. Better than 99.9 percent of districts gave themselves a rating of “exemplary,” “recognized” or “acceptable” for engaging various stakeholders in school districts. A single district deemed its engagement “unacceptable” (the identity of this brutally honest district isn’t listed in a Texas Education Agency press release, and a statewide report wasn’t available due to technical issues).

The evaluations are required under a state law passed in 2013, but their existence will be shortlived. Legislators repealed that law this year.

What’s the real good news in that collective self-aggrandizing gush fest? Gotta be this: “Legislators repealed that law.”

I’m all about allowing the schools to offer “feedback” on how they’re doing, but their grade shouldn’t be the one that counts.

Think about it this way. You’re at work, and it’s time for your annual job review. In a typical year, you get to fill out a “self-evaluation” where  you give yourself ratings and list your accomplishments. You can paint a rosy picture, but get too gushy about yourself and you can be sure your supervisor will ignore your feedback with a big ol’ eyeroll.

Unless of course your boss handed you the reins and told you your self-evaluation is what will determine your pay raise and next promotion, then you would, of course, give yourself straight As.

Student engagement is too important a concept to leave it to the self-graders. This is the problem with “local control” when it comes to accountability. It’s a slippery slope to self-delusion.

What do you think?
The following two tabs change content below.
Tracy Dell'Angela

Tracy Dell'Angela

Tracy loves to ask questions and write stories. She roots for the underdog, wants our nation to reimagine schools and the teaching profession, and seethes about how much school inequity she sees. She spent most of her career as a journalist covering schools and crime. She and her husband raised two daughters in a diverse suburb of Chicago. She currently runs an education foundation in her community and formerly served as managing editor of Education Post. After leaving journalism she explored her wonkier side communicating school research at the University of Chicago and the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education. She is Californian by birth and a Chicagoan in spirit. She loves the outdoors and all animals, especially her spoiled "dingo" dog.

More Comments

%d bloggers like this: