This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.
Statewide third-grade reading: down 4.1 percent.
Statewide fifth-grade science: up 10.4 percent.
Statewide 10th-grade writing: down 1.1 percent.
These are among the multiplicity of student test numbers released Wednesday by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Don’t be overly impressed.
The scores are important. Tacomans need to know, for example, that their third-graders slipped in reading between 2011 and 2012 while their eighth-graders held their own. Sumner parents should know that their district’s third-graders improved by 6 points in math while fourth-graders fell by 9.
One year’s third-graders are the next year’s fourth-graders, and the tests change by grade level, so the scores can’t always tell you much in a given year. But over time, they can provide a sense of which direction a district or school is headed.
What’s missing, though, is the most important context. Not just how kids, or schools, or the state are doing from year to year, compared to themselves, but how public education in Washington and the nation as a whole is doing compared to the rest of the world.
The K-12 system excels at patting itself on the back and promising big things just around the corner. Sometimes, in some school districts, it even delivers. But an important new book, “Trapped in Mediocrity,” splashes ice water on claims that American public education is on the right track.
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