I spent some time this week talking with Sikeston school officials about the recently released MAP scores. These annual tests are critical for a number of reasons to every school district in the state. But the true value of the tests is the ability to accurately gauge how students perform in comparison to others within the state and how they have progressed in the past year.
Let me say right up front - there's good news for Sikeston schools. Significant improvements were made in virtually every aspect of the testing even though Sikeston and over a thousand other districts failed to meet the statewide expectations in every category. By no means are we alone. When over half of the school districts in the state were below the expectations, that to me is a sign that the expectations are unrealistic in the way they are counted. But that's another story for another day and I believe the state will remedy that issue in the coming years.
School officials here were vocal in their enthusiasm for the progress made over prior years' scores. And well they should be. Chart by chart, you can recognize the progress and improvements and see in clear context where our school and others failed to meet statewide expectations.
The eventual goal of the annual tests is to assure that all students in all categories are proficient by the year 2014. Let me tell you right now, that will not happen here and it will not happen elsewhere with very few exceptions. As a whole, our students are far above state averages and, in fact, are outstanding in their progress in many categories. But there will always be a pocket of students who will fail to reach that proficient level. That is categorically not the fault of the school district, the teachers, the facilities or any other issue that can be addressed by society. And education officials at the state and federal level will recognize that in the coming years.
The sincere issue I have with these tests is this. We applaud those students who achieve that proficient or advanced category and we hold them up to the public spotlight as well we should. But the testing process is designed solely to raise those under-achieving students to those higher categories and I fear we'll slight the over-achievers in the process.
Every goal of these tests is designed to eliminate the bottom rung of the performing ladder and through the years to raise them higher and higher each year. That is indeed a noble goal and one that should be an important ingredient in the testing process. But we cannot and must not ignore those bright students who are already at that higher level. We must put equal emphasis on raising their achievements even higher.
Every resident of this community should take great pride in the accomplishment of Sikeston students on the recently released state testing. That pride is genuine and well-deserved. Yet we should also recognize that the goal of this test and thus the increased emphasis in our system and others is to put our efforts and energies in the lowest performing student. Too much is riding on the outcome of these tests to establish unrealistic goals.