One of my favorite things about being a superintendent is the opportunity I get to meet students, parents, and Godley community members. When I meet people, especially those new to our growing community, I often ask what they like about Godley ISD. The responses range from great teachers who care about kids, involved parents, supportive community, to happy, well-adjusted students, our commitment to character education, or our strong student involvement in fine arts, Ag, athletics, and our many other programs. Not once has the answer been, “high standardized test scores.”
The State will soon release it’s A-F ratings for school districts. The A-F rating system is an attempt to boil down the complex question of school quality by reducing it to a single letter grade, and that is where it falls short. I won’t attempt to explain the details of the confusing and complex math the state uses to arrive at their single mark. Their manual looks like a phonebook. But we believe the reduction of everything that happens in a school to a single grade, even if performed in a statistically robust manner, ignores the fact that most of what happens in our school is well outside a letter grade. The state’s system is neither simple nor transparent. It misrepresents a large proportion of what happens in schools by reducing an entire school to a single mark that can only be partially appropriate given the complexity of schooling. This is also another attempt by the state to remove local control.
Testing is important, and we will examine our results and make appropriate adjustments as we continue doing what is best for students, but using standardized tests as the sole indicator to label and form statistical conclusions about students, teachers, and schools will be mostly inaccurate. When discussing how we can better make our learners “future-ready,” we talk a lot about the “C’s”: Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical thinking, Commitment, Contribution, Compassion, and Character. State tests don’t measure these important skills that many employers repeatedly describe as necessary in today’s workforce and that our Godley community has said are important.
The State has used standardized tests to judge schools for decades. Parents and students have been increasingly frustrated that high stakes testing adds unneeded anxiety to our students, hijacks our curriculum, and decreases the quality of a student’s educational experience. We will not celebrate the “B” the State assigned to Godley Middle School and Godley High School, nor demoralize the intermediate school for the “F” they were assigned. We will use the A-F information as one of many data points on our quest to provide an excellent education for every student who walks through our doors. Parents have higher expectations for our schools to do more than simply mold students into successful test-takers. Our goal is to make sure that every student who crosses the stage is equipped with the knowledge, skills, and character to excel in their chosen career path. That takes much more than performing well on one test.
Rather than relying on a tired, recycled accountability system, as a district, we have chosen to adjust our views on accountability. Driven by our community created Strategic Design, we are developing a robust Community Based Accountability System that will reflect the values and expectations of our community, along with the educational standards of the State. I believe in accountability, but it needs to be based on more than just a snapshot of how our students perform on one day, and it needs to represent what our Godley community holds important. This Community Based Accountability System will provide an opportunity for our parents, community, staff, and students to determine the standards that are important in our community, determine how best to meet those standards, and be transparent in reporting out on those metrics. The whole premise behind this system is two questions: for what should we be accountable? And to whom should we be accountable?
The State’s system cannot capture the hopes, dreams, and aspirations our community has for our children. It will not tell the complete GISD story. We can do better and we are committed to improving instruction and moving forward. We would love for you to be involved with the development of our Community Based Accountability System. In the coming months, we will communicate our timeline of committee meetings and events to develop our system. Thank you for supporting the students of Godley ISD. Go Wildcats.
Godley ISD Superintendent