The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, March 15, 2016 9:14 pm

One grade insufficient to mark school's impact

Keith Gambill

This is in response to the Sept. 3 article, “A-F grades could die on technicality.” I have no idea whether A-F will die on a technicality or otherwise.

Supporters of giving schools a letter grade believe it informs the public of a school’s accountability, a noble cause. However; the current system does not meet that benchmark.

The lack of information associated with the letter grade forces the public to draw too many conclusions about a school that are not a part of the school’s grade.

For example, the current system does not inform parents as to the safety of their children, their access to arts, athletics or clubs.

It does not provide any information about resources for assisting students with developmental delays, social/emotional problems or how they have grown in their learning over time.

There is no consideration for how the school works within the community to shape a well-rounded student who is prepared to become an active and engaged citizen.

The letter grade is based on one data point alone – the “all-knowing, all-seeing” standardized test. Standardized tests were never developed to measure the ability of a teacher, the efforts of support staff or the success of a school.

The governor repeats, “We grade our students every day; we can grade our schools once a year.”

My position, as a teacher, is that I would never simply give my students one grade a year and expect them and their parents to figure out how I got to that grade.

My position, as a taxpayer, is that I want to know more about my neighborhood school than just its performance on one test.

Accountability exists, or should primarily exist, to respond to student needs – determining where students are at any point during the school year (test day or any other day, for that matter) and then committing to move the students forward.

If student learning improves, then all the other reasons for instituting an accountability metric are served as well.

Standardized test scores are a single data point along this “everyday timeline” that we as educators think of as our accountability to students and parents.

The schools at which we teach have always and will continue to inform parents of their child’s progress – delayed test scores and multi-million dollar contracts to testing companies or not.

To believe that this single data point resting among multiple data points is the Holy Grail is a false assumption that has been sold as “accountability.”

If only accountability were so simple!

Whether A-F lives on or dies, the current system has proven itself to be based upon a suspect premise, and unless that is addressed, it is our kids who will suffer. 

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