NM Update - School-scoring error sets imagination awhirl

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Editorial, The New Mexican - 10/24/2000

Could this be some misdirected effort at privatization by the Gary Johnson administration?

His Department of Education, having put on a campaign to recognize and reward schools whose students show improvement in standardized-test scores, announced the 1999-2000 winners earlier this month.

Among the 94 "high improving" schools, said the department, were Santa Fe's PiC1on and Turquoise Trail elementaries.

Turquoise Trail was to receive $25,000, PiC1on $35,000 from $1.8 million the department had set aside as an incentive fund; no great fortune, but enough for the schools to offer such things as tutoring in English as a second language.

Mostly, though, the principals, teachers and students of the Santa Fe schools were happy to think they'd made some solid progress at a time of heavy pressure on our public schools to put up good numbers on achievement tests - or face more arguments for public-paid vouchers so kids might go to private schools where those numbers tend to be better.

But hold the phone; the numbers weren't better - at those two schools and many others. PiC1on and Turquoise Trail had improved in previous years, but their scores for the past school year were a tad lower than they had been.

A red-faced Superintendent Michael Davis issued a revised list of 101 high-improving schools, accompanied by diplomatic mumbling that the erased schools no doubt were striving mightily and all that ....

The good news was that another Santa Fe school - Atalaya Elementary - is due for recognition.

Computer error was the state's official explanation for this reversal. But it takes humans to operate computers - and someone clicked "ascend" instead of "descend" on the computer program ranking the schools. Schools improving least were credited with improving most.

If the department could make a mess of this simple task, our anti-government governor might ask, what else could it be fouling up? Better that taxpayers be spared the cost of such mistakes; the kind that couldn't possibly be made by the private sector - or so goes gubernatorial advocacy of public service for private profit.

Such Byzantine reasoning comes naturally to New Mexicans after six years of our governor's leadership - but the reality is that bureaucratic foul-ups, so often attributed to Democratic governance, are at least as likely to occur with a Republican in power.


----------Original post at http://www.sfnewmexican.com/opinion/index.las

-- Doris (reaper@pacifier.com), October 24, 2000

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