Commentary

Why one A-F grade for a school makes about as much sense as one A-F grade for your child

School testsYesterday, North Carolina took the latest in an series of steps cooked up by conservative advocates and ideologues to demoralize and depopulate our public education system (what they call “government schools”) — the release of the  much ballyhooed A-F grades for individual schools. As we’ve quickly learned — surprise!! — schools with lots of poor kids tend to fare poorly on standardized tests. Who could have guessed?

Notably absent from the review, of course, is the long list of private and religious schools eligible for public funds which teach that humans and dinosaurs once shared the planet, but that’s a discussion for another time and place.

Thankfully, a lot of what one needs to know about the A-F idea — aside from the obvious fact that it is sheer folly to try and sum up the collective actions of hundreds (or even thousands) of students, teachers and administrators in a single letter grade — is detailed in this new report from the good folks at the National Education Policy Center: “Why School Report Cards Merit a Failing Grade.”

After explaining why it’s impossible and counter-productive to try and assign a single letter grade to an entire school — especially one based on standardized tests of a population over which the school has no control and that completely ignores important parts of the school’s mission like developing citizens — the authors go on to recommend, among other things:

  • Eliminating the single grade, which cannot be composed without adding together unlike elements and promoting confusion and misunderstanding.
  • Developing a report card format that uses multiple school indicators that more adequately reflect a school performance profile.
  • Enlisting the services of assessment and evaluation experts in designing school accountability systems.

Click here to read the entire report. Let’s hope state lawmakers do. And let’s also hope that the new grades set in motion a chain of occurrences not intended by their conservative designers — namely, that North Carolina gets serious about attacking the two main causes of our educational system problems: poverty and segregation.

6 Comments


  1. Rob Schofield

    February 6, 2015 at 7:38 am

    See also this morning’s Charlotte Observer editorial which calls for doing away with the tests, saying “The grades, which were mandated by a 2012 law pushed and passed by N.C. Republicans, are an inaccurate and superficial use of state test scores. They’re a destructive and political manipulation of information that’s meant to help our children and their teachers get better.”

  2. LayintheSmakDown

    February 6, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Do we know which school or schools that actaully receive government funds teach dinosaurs shared the earth with humans? The fact that a school may be eligible is not really a relevant point unless they actually receive public funds.

    In my view the point of these grades is to look at the trend over time, and to see if the trend is up in a particular school and if the students are progressing on growth one year over the next. Like all the other measurement systems out there, this is a tool for school districts to identify where efforts may or may not be working.

  3. Nick Gervase

    February 6, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    While grading schools does not tell us anything that we did already know, perhaps it is an opportunity to encourage our legislature and governor for additional funds for the D/F schools.

    Those children who are in poverty have a very difficult road to walk to be successful in our schools. We can start by expanding pre-schools for these children. As a former School Board President, I know that this results in a huge improvement in the classroom for these children. We can add teaching assistants at these schools to help the children. We can support after-school work with teachers to help do their homework. I’m sure there many other things we can do.

  4. LayintheSmakDown

    February 6, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    Alan, where are you? I have been waiting almost 12 hours for a troll that includes at least one of these words:
    Crazy
    Tin
    Civitas
    Intern
    Nugget
    Foaming
    Talk
    Nonsense
    ALEC
    Detached
    Mix and match at your leisure!

  5. Alan

    February 8, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    LSD, you’re still having problems understanding what a troll is?

  6. LayintheSmakDown

    February 9, 2015 at 11:03 am

    Not at all, I see you here all the time. That is why I wrote the list, just helping you out with the random word generator you use.

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