Every once in a while a superintendent tells the parents in his district what is in his heart, not the bureaucratic blather that usually comes out automatically.

Paul Jones is the superintendent of the Paris Independent School District in Texas. He posted a letter to the parents in his district on its website letting them know that the test scores do not define their child. No doubt he also understands that the scores are arbitrary and depend on whatever passing mark the test company or state official chooses.

He wrote:

“Next week, you will be receiving your child’s STAAR/TAKS results for the 2013-2014 school year. I’m writing this letter on behalf of PISD administrators, teachers, staff, and board members. These results should be considered as one of many instruments used to measure your child’s growth, not the end-all of your child’s learning for the year.

“These assessments do not reflect the quality of teaching or learning in our classrooms. Instead, they reflect a punitive; one size fits all test-driven system. Our students are much more than a once-a-year pencil and bubble sheet test. Your child means immeasurably more than just a number generated in Austin. There is no test that can assess all of what makes each child unique. The state mandated assessments are used by the state to score and rank our campuses and our district, however, this is not the only assessment we use for Paris ISD students. We have higher standards. Your child’s achievements must be measured by a multitude of accomplishments throughout the year. Your individual child’s academic growth is what is important, and we assess your child’s growth from the start of the school year to the end of the school year.

“In contrast, your child is assessed by the state with a criterion-referenced test (STAAR), which assesses how your child performs on a single day and uses those results to compare your child to a predetermined standard set by bureaucrats in Austin and a testing company headquartered in London, England.

“We all know students do not master skills at the same rate; each individual child has their strengths and weaknesses. This single test cannot measure what we know about your child. Many of our students play sports, play musical instruments, dance, sing, speak multiple languages, write and perform poetry or songs, and create amazing works of art. We have students working multiple jobs at night to help support their family. Many of our students are the main caregivers for younger siblings late into the evening hours. Our classrooms are reflective of a multi-faceted student involved in a wide variety of activities, both academic and extra-curricular. It is not just drill and kill for one test.

“Although the data from this assessment will help us know when to offer enrichment or intervention, we will use the state assessment for the purpose the original assessment system was created–a diagnostic tool for identifying areas of concern as well as strengths. Individual student data will be aligned with local assessment data to develop educational plans that ensure continued progress for our students. Your child’s growth and love of learning are our main goals at PISD.

“Unfortunately, bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. and Austin have designed a one-size-fits-all assessment system that doesn’t necessarily reflect your individual child’s growth and achievements. Our students, not the state assessment, will be our main focus and top priority. Our instructional goals are to prepare each child to be college and/or career ready for the 21st Century.

“So, yes, we live in a time when standardized test results are a reality. However, let’s not let the STAAR test overshadow what is truly important–each individual child. Let us not forget to celebrate the vast and numerous accomplishments and successes the students of PISD have achieved this school year. It has been a great one!

“Paul Jones,
Superintendent Paris Independent School District”

If you open the link, you will see that the reporter from the Dallas Morning News is less impressed than I am. He thinks that it is important to measure basic skills with a standardized test (if the test is worthy) and that Jones took a cheap shot at Pearson for being based in London.

I don’t agree. The standardized tests made by Pearson have no connection to what children were taught unless the district bought the Pearson textbooks. The teacher should test what she taught, not what Pearson prefers. Look, Texans should be outraged that the state paid Pearson nearly $500 million for five years, when Néw York got a five year contract for only $32 million. Sorry, Jeff, this is big business, not education. Nationally, billions are at stake. Superintendent Jones knows it. He also knows that every child needs to be appreciated for what they can do, not punished for what they can’t do.

What is admirable about Mr. Jones is that he understands that the tole of the school is human development, not the ranking and sorting of children for industry.

He has judgement, wisdom, a heart, and a brain. And that’s why I am adding him to the honor roll.