Saturday, June 8, 2013

Dear Friends,

My dear friend and fellow colleague, Tracey Mercer, a teacher and a leader in the Bristol, VA public schools shared this article with me last night and wondered if I might like to post it in my blog. After reading it, I couldn't help but post it immediately. You can read the article which was published in the Washington Post yesterday here.

The purpose of the article is to point out the flaws (and there are many) with the new policy passed by the General Assembly this past session which will require the Department of Education to give individual schools a grade from A through F for the purpose of communicating to parents how well their child's school is doing.

The scheme came from Florida and has been used in Louisiana. Unfortunately, Governor McDonnell has consistently used comparisons with these two states as though they were models that we should emulate in spite of the fact that all evidence points to the failures of both systems. The decision to attach a grade to a school has more to do with the Governor's determination to push a system of choice on parents than to do anything truly helpful for schools that may be struggling.

The article which has been thoroughly researched and uses documented evidence to support its thesis points out that the grading system will unfairly label high poverty schools in high poverty areas as failing and that that designation is inherently unfair.

The article specifically states:

"...the grading scale needs to be either repealed or adjusted to prevent schools from being punished just because they have a large percentage of students that are economically-disadvantaged. In essence, labeling a school with a C or below marks them as inadequate and delivers a false perception to the community and to anyone considering relocating and enrolling their children in such school divisions.  Moreover, Governor McDonnell and the majority of our state senators and delegates have praised this measure for its simplicity. They have indicated that parents should be able to better understand one grade instead of a multi-page school evaluation document.  While this may be true, a single grade based solely on overall student achievement will inevitably favor affluent school divisions and denigrate those with high poverty rates. This applies even when poorer divisions are out-performing wealthy school divisions in the low socio-economic subgroup, and thus are doing a better job of closing achievement gaps."

I support the assertion that this grading system needs to be re-visited. Lawmakers who continually try to create simplistic answers to complex issues are doing nothing to further the education of our children or to provide the structure that our schools need in order to be successful.

It is time for the people who have been sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone else to take a stand to start taking a stand of their own. I applaud the authors of this article and urge my readers to spread it among their friends and colleagues to the widest extent possible.

Until next time.


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