Weather Forecast


Editorial: State's list of 'failing schools' is flawed but valuable

Most school administrators seem to have mixed feelings about the Minnesota Department of Education's annual list of schools failing to make adequate yearly progress toward federal No Child Left Behind goals. Many are happy to have another measure of the job they are doing educating their students. And most will acknowledge it's good to set ambitious goals. But nobody much likes the attention the annual list gets or the way it is often presented to the general public.

The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment test that forms much of the basis for the AYP list, they point out, is just one test. It's hardly a comprehensive measure of a school district's overall quality. The way the evaluation system is set up, one bad day by a handful of students could be enough to get an entire school or an entire district labeled as failing. And with all schools expected to meet No Child Left Behind goals within a few years the system all but guarantees most schools will eventually fall short of expectations.

So, maybe the system -- or at least the terminology -- isn't entirely fair. But it's the one we've got. And it is up to school districts to find a way to succeed within the parameters it presents.

So far elementary schools in Rosemount have been able to do that. None of the local schools is on the state's AYP list. Rosemount Middle School and Rosemount High School both are, but standards are stricter there, too. All of the middle schools on District 196 were on the list this year.

And there are signs of improvement. Last year, RMS was on the list because of the performance of special education students and students who receive free and reduced price lunches. This year, it is listed only because of the special education students.

Failing is a harsh word to apply to schools named on the state's AYP list. There are few who would argue students do not get a good education at RMS or RHS. The list provides at best a snapshot, and there are a lot of schools on that list that have excellent academic reputations.

Eighteen of the 32 schools were named to the list despite the fact the district as a whole scored better than state averages on the MCA exams.

But if the list provides a little extra motivation to get schools and districts to improve what they do, well that's not a bad thing.