News of achievement in our schools should always be celebrated. Teachers, students and parents deserve recognition for improvement. Under incredible pressure, our teachers have labored to meet higher standards even as resources to meet those goals have shrunk.
Of course, we all want to see proof of the progress that should come from their hard work. Unfortunately, the school report cards released by the Department of Education don’t and never will make the grade.
The scheme that created letter grades for public schools was a political hatchling, and these continuously-tweaked report cards remain a political gimmick to this date. Superintendent of Education John White says as much in his press release when he writes, “Changes made to the formula have led to real increases in student achievement.”
Changes in formulas don’t lead to academic achievement. They simply produce the results that the person writing the report wants to show.
One year, radical changes to public education can be justified by the formula’s report. The next year, when politicians want to show that their reform schemes are working, a simple tweak of the formula can illustrate “amazing improvements.”
He who controls the formula controls the public’s perception of our schools.
Even if one is a loyal disciple of letter grades for schools, shouldn’t one ask why every aspect of a school’s performance is represented by a single grade?
When a child comes home from school with grades in English, math, science and social studies, parents have an idea of where the student is doing well and where improvements are needed.
In contrast, a single grade stamped on a school does nothing but create an impression of success or failure, without providing important information that we all know affects student and school performance.
A serious report for parents and the public would include measures of the condition or performance of a school or school district beyond standardized test scores.
Certainly, we should not use the same measuring stick for selective admission schools rated among the best in the nation that we use for alternative schools and our most challenged students.
And if we really wanted to begin to bring some legitimacy to report cards, we would report on any school that takes public funds, including the private and religious schools that accept vouchers.
Steve Monaghan, President
Louisiana Federation of Teachers
Baton Rouge, LA
Posted on Fri, November 1, 2013