You have to hand it to some lawmakers, such as Rep. Terri Collins of Decatur, for their continuing efforts to make us all believe the A-F school report cards are something they really aren’t.
She is the one who passed this controversial legislation in 2012 and insists that it will soon become a reality. And as it often the case in Alabama, it makes no difference that the education community sees little to no value in this exercise.
Several superintendents in north Alabama have raised questions about this bill. Like Janet Womack in Florence and Vic Wilson, Dan Brigman and Billy Hopkins in Morgan County. Even Ms. Collins hometown newspaper, The Decatur Daily, opposes the bill.
But Rep. Collins plows ahead. Several months ago had info distributed to members of the state board of education that she claims support the merits of A-F. You can see what she sent them here and here. But there is a small problem, this info doesn’t prove anything at all and simply spreads misinformation.
Take the first piece that shows when states adopted A-F. As you see, it says the state of Virginia adopted it in 2013 and then repealed it in 2015. Why? “The repeal was political, as repealing A-F was part of Gov. McAuliffe’s campaign platform,” according to the Collins data sheet. But not so fast.
While Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is indeed a Democrat and may have promised repeal of A-F in his campaign, both houses of the Virginia legislature are controlled by the GOP and according to the Virginia Department of Education, the bill to repeal was sponsored by GOP Senator Dick Black, one of the most conservative members of the body.
The original bill was passed late in the term of GOP Governor Bob McDonnell and created a great deal of pushback among educators. So much, in fact, that Republican legislators killed it two years later.
Now look at the second bit of info from Collins. This shows when A-F began in eight states and gives their National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores for 4th grade reading and math and 8th grade reading and math. Whoever created this chart wants us to believe that scores went up because that state implemented A-F.
(They probably also want us to believe in the Tooth Fairy.)
I showed this info to Dr. Brittany Larkin, education researcher at Auburn University, to get her thoughts. Her response was short and sweet. “Based only on the information you provided, I don’t see any real indication that there were increases in achievement post implementing A-F. There were no sharp increases in achievement when the policy was enacted. This leads me to believe there are other things they are doing that are working, hence the increase over time,” said Larkin.
Take 4th grade math scores for example. Beginning in 1992, Mississippi increased 28 points prior to A-F; New Mexico went up 17 as did Oklahoma; Louisiana increased 25; Indiana 22 and Arizona 15. But someone wants us to believe that A-F school reports should get credit for ALL improvement.
Truth is, any of these states could have switched from yellow to pink school buses and made the same hollow claim.
Once again we need to remember that when you mix education policy and politics, all that glitters is not gold.