The inanity of grading schools

Thanks to our Republican legislators all of NC schools now get graded based primarily on how many students pass the standardized tests.  Not surprisingly, this not all that much than grading schools for the socio-economic background of the families they serve.  My friend Damon wrote a terrific FB post on this (and I’m feeling lazy and it was a public post) so I’m just going to paste it here.  Pretty much everything Damon says goes for my kids’ elementary as well, just with different teachers’ names:

So my kids’ school was given a “C” under the new General Assembly grading system. This letter grade is the latest in a concerted effort to delegitimize public schools in order to pave the way for privatization.

What it purports to tell you is that only a certain percentage of kids passed the latest version of standardized testing with a tiny part of the letter grade attributed to the school’s ability to demonstrate student growth (as in we don’t care if our schools are helping you make progress, we just care how much you know on a random spring morning).

What it more accurately tells you is the percentage of kids in a given school that come from an impoverished background. You know, the kind of background where mom’s second shift gets in the way of homework help or where high quality pre-k isn’t an affordable option (BTW they are cutting that too). These kids, try as they might, don’t have pre-literacy skills because when breakfast isn’t certain and you have to wake up and keep an eye on your sister, knocking the socks off of a fill in the bubble sheet is a bit tougher.

But the magic of our public schools is for decades, DECADES, we have been able to overcome those challenges and turn those kids into hard working competent, fulfilled adults (…and taxpayers). We do this by making sure no one teacher has to shoulder the extra burden of transformation to 30 of these young ones at a time. It’s hard to do, but manageable.

I’m not saying we give up standardized testing, it can be a great resource to track progress and see where we need to put some extra resources. But we absolutely need to quit this nonsense about giving Cs or Ds or Fs as if you can adequately express all that is a school this way.

Douglas elementary doesn’t deserve a C when Mr. Fairweather taught my kid to love reading. It doesn’t deserve a C when it opens its doors to parents who don’t speak English so that their kids can learn poetry. It doesn’t deserve a C when Ms. Polly spends her own time and money to make a kindergarten classroom the kind of place my daughter thinks is heaven. It doesn’t deserve a C when the under-staffed, over-burdened, under-resourced principal takes time to greet everyone at open house, stays til 8, before knocking out a half dozen compliance forms and two letters of reference for the teacher he had to let go thanks to budget cuts.

I can make a long list of folks who deserve an F when it comes to our public schools, and the people who cooked up this cockamamie letter grade nonsense are at the very top.

And, as long as I’m at it, I was reminded of Damon’s post as my awesome State Senator Josh Stein put this in graphical form today:


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to The inanity of grading schools

  1. itchy says:

    Somehow, I missed Damon’s post on Facebook. Beautiful.

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