Numbers Used To Defend A-F School Grades Are Worthless

For better or worse it appears that the controversial A-F report card for schools is headed our way.  The law requiring this was sponsored in 2012 by Rep. Terri Collins and has yet to be implemented.

We’ve discussed this before.  Here and here.

A Blue Ribbon panel of educators worked for two years trying to come up with a reasonable grading system.  This effort was finally abandoned and the State Department of Education has re-grouped and taken another try at this task.  Phase 1 is scheduled to roll out in December of this year.

Educators and researchers across the country wonder what is the value and purpose of such report cards.  Many see it as just one more effort to treat public education punitively and as just another attempt to make public schools look bad.

Oklahoma adopted this approach in 2011.  A scathing review of the program was done by the Oklahoma Center for Education Policy at the University of Oklahoma and the Center for Educational Research and Evaluation at Oklahoma State University

Here is some of what they had to say:

“The data we have analyzed demonstrate quite dramatically that the letter grade system for school evaluation has very little meaning and certainly cannot be used legitimately to inform high-stakes decisions.

“We urge policy makers to abandon the single letter approach.

“A bureaucratic evaluation system that produces nearly meaningless grades is no substitute for reasoned decision making based on careful consideration of all creditable evidence.

“Oklahoma’s Report Card is very costly, bureaucratically cumbersome, and seems not designed to improve learning in schools.”

It would be hard to call this a ringing endorsement.

Yet information has recently surfaced that is an attempt to say that states using the A-F system are seeing remarkable gains in school improvement.  But the truth is, this info does anything BUT prove the validity of such policy.

There is a neat little chart showing National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores for eight states using A-F.  (Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah.)  Test results go back to 1992 for 4th grade reading, 1998 for 8th grade reading, 1992 for 4th grade math and 1990 for 8th grade math.

While NAEP scores are considered the “gold standard,” they are often misinterpreted as explained here and here.

Though it is true that all eight of these states have seen increases in performance, Dr. Brittany Larkin of Auburn University’s College of Education points out that they were steadily increasing BEFORE the A-F implementation and there is no clear evidence that the increase started because the system was installed.

And when you compare gains in these states against the national average, only Florida is better than the U.S. in all four measures.  Utah and Oklahoma are below the national average in all four; New Mexico beats the average in only one of four; Arizona and Indiana are better in two of four and Mississippi and Louisiana are better in three of four.

By comparison, the same info shows that Alabama has outdone the national average in 4th grade math and reading and in 8th grade reading.  So we are three out of four which means we are doing better than or equal to seven out of eight states using A-F.

And no where in the “evidence” promoting A-F is there any discussion of other efforts states have made.  No doubt the Alabama Reading Initiative has helped our reading scores, just as AMSTI has helped other scores.

To totally discount things such as this and claim all the credit for A-F is disingenuous at best and fraudulent at worst.

This “evidence” is as plausible as deciding to paint all Alabama school buses pink, then coming back in a few years and saying, “Wow, look at what happened to our test scores when we went to pink busses.”

Sorry, but as we say in Red Level, “This dog won’t hunt.”  And the truly scary part is the mere fact that someone wants to guide our education policy based on something so meaningless..

 

2 Responses to Numbers Used To Defend A-F School Grades Are Worthless

  1. The only way that I can see this being valid is when all schools are funded and resourced equally with the same amount of money and the same number of talented credentialed administrators and teachers. We know this will never happen. I wonder what would happen if underresourced schools had the same support as those who will get the top letter grade.

    What happened to the value of the context of each school? This is so disturbing to me. I have worked in both a and F schools. No one can say what this does for the schools who already feel kicked to the bottom.

    How could the F schools bring this to the people’s attention? Lawsuits, PR campaigns etc.

    • There were 56 schools on the first list of “failing schools” as declared by the Alabama Accountability Act. Collectively they were 91% free-reduced lunch and 87% black.

      A-F grading will be no different.

      And the good thing about the A-F bill is that those schools who score well will get additional resources. Those who score badly get nothing.

      Logic and common sense are four letter words in Montgomery.

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