School rankings indicate progress

May 29, 2017 GMT

This year’s ranking of local schools by the Houston-based nonprofit Children at Risk offers optimism that things on the local public education front are on the upswing.

But before we start celebrating, let’s do a reality check. There is still much work to be done.

While it is good to acknowledge the successes along the way we cannot afford to lose focus of the bigger picture, and that includes the fact that only one in five children in San Antonio is reading at grade level.

The Children at Risk ranking of schools indicates the number of San Antonio schools scoring an A or B is steadily growing. However, despite the gains, the community continues to rank lower overall than other major metropolitan areas in the state.

That is not to say the other metropolitan areas are doing tremendously better. A close examination of the ranking reveals that even those communities at the top of the list have much room for improvement.

Over the past three years, the percentage of San Antonio schools ranked with an A or B increased from 40 percent to 43 percent. Austin, which topped the rankings in the state this year, had only 51 percent of its schools ranked with a grade of A or B. Houston and Fort Worth each had 48 percent of their schools with A and B ratings.

Children at Risk’s annual rankings consider poverty rates and enrollment demographics when comparing schools’ state standardized tests scores and year-over-year gains.

Other ranking factors include academic growth, SAT, ACT, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate scores in science, technology, engineering and math.

Some local school administrators take issue with the Children at Risk rankings calling them an oversimplistic and inaccurate representation of the work they do. They refuse to acknowledge the school ranking report.

We can all agree the success of a school has to do with so much more than test scores. Strong leadership from the district administration, a hardworking school board, principals with good management skills and high quality classroom teachers are all factors that contribute to the overall well being of a school district.

Children at Risk officials, in fact, attribute the noticeable ranking gains by some Texas school districts directly on what they refer to as “turnaround superintendents,” hired to bring change to troubled schools.

Lists, rankings and grades do not define a school district, but they do help shed light on problem areas and programs that are showing results.

The Children at Risk reports merit use as a resource by policy makers as they struggle to make the difficult decisions about the future of Texas public education.

The findings of the nonpartisan research organization are based on data collected by the state and available to anyone for the asking.

The numbers are difficult to dispute. So the superintendents should stop trying and districts should start installing not just turnaround superintendents, but principals and teachers who fit the same mold.