Schools brace for bad grades
What letter grade does your child’s school deserve? You probably would take into account lots of things — quality of teaching, academic rigor, discipline and so on. You might even factor in extracurricular activities and how welcoming the staff is.
Brace yourself. The state is about to issue school performance grades next week that assign A-through-F letter grades to schools on very narrow criteria — 80 percent on passing rates and only 20 percent on how much students learn during a year, or “growth.” Considering how test scores fell across the state this past year, many schools are expected to receive poor marks.
That does not bode well for Rowan-Salisbury schools. The system’s test scores have lagged for several years, and this new accountability measure likely will hammer home that point. Just keep in mind that Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody and her team have adopted a new strategic plan and put digital devices in students’ hands. They’re working on helping students make big strides forward. But that takes time.
What has not taken much time is seeing the superficiality of this new accountability system. The General Assembly approved the plan as part of its overall approach to reforming schools, but it’s hard to see how it will help schools. The grades are meant to give parents moving into a community a snapshot of how local schools are performing. Based so heavily on raw test scores, the grades are more likely to reflect the family incomes of each school district than the actual quality of instruction, thus perpetuating the bias against low-wealth communities. Say a school receives a D. How will that help improve student performance or teaching?
Rep. Craig Horn of Weddington, a leader of education and education budget committees, said on a recent taping of NC SPIN that he would support revising the grading formula to more of a 50-50 split between performance and growth. Here’s a prediction: More and more lawmakers will distance themselves from this idea as parents react following the release of the grades on Feb. 5.
The grades are likely to confuse some people, especially here in Rowan where the school board just revised the high school grading system to a 10-point scale. These school grades are different.
Perhaps it’s not fair to judge the new accountability grades until they come out, but this “reform” begs the same question as many other education ideas that have come out of Raleigh in recent years: Did legislators really intend to improve public schools, or do they just want to undermine them?