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Our thoughts: Recognize improvements
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Students and teachers returned to the classroom Friday, hopefully taking note of last year’s improvements in many testing areas to do even more positive work this school year.

As the EOCT scores for individual high schools were released by the Department of Education this week, it’s great news to see how much students improved over their previous scores. We can’t expect students to suddenly start marking perfect scores on every test, so being better than last year is certainly the good sign teachers and parents should be looking for.
The district, as a whole, logged better marks this year over last in every subject that could be compared. Yes, the math scores are still well under what we may want to see, but just a few more years of 10-percent improvements – coordinate algebra passed 29 percent of students after passing only 19 percent in 2013 – will put us in great shape.

We have every right – and obligation -- to hold those responsible, be it students, teachers, administrators or leaders, for underperformance when it’s clear something better could be done. But focusing only on the fact that these kids are not passing math, ignoring the fact that they beat averages across the state in every other area, and chalking it up to students being incapable or teachers being ineffective will only make negative impacts worse.

Teachers can’t help what level their students are at when they walk in the classroom on the first day, but they can help what level they’re at when they walk out on the last day. And, as the numbers show, most of those last-day levels are higher than where they started.

So the goal should be to encourage. Call out and recognize the weak points, but do so by encouraging students and teachers to increase what they’re doing well and to change what’s not working.

Because if a test is a recognition of good or bad performance, what’s the point in trying to do better if the only recognition is what you failed to do?