Bill Ferriter teaches the 6th grade in a North Carolina school. He’s been an educator for 20 years during which he has taught more than 2,200 students. He is also the author of four books about education.
But the title he is most proud of is FATHER. His second grade daughter attends a public school in the Tar Heel state that was recently given a “C” grade under the state’s A-F school grading system. (Alabama will begin an A-F system later this year.) Ferriter is hardly a fan of A-F school grades as he explains in this recent blog post.
Here are some of his thoughts:
“I’m not JUST an advocate for public schools and poor communities any more. I am also the parent of a second grade daughter who attends a public school. So crappy choices made by our legislators hurt MY kid. This issue is personal.
My daughter’s school is nothing short of a remarkable place. EVERY time that I stop by, I feel a sense of happiness from everyone that I meet. Students smile and skip and laugh and joke with each other and with their teachers. Teachers are relaxed and joyful, invested in each other and in their students. Provocative questions are being asked and answered, positive messages are being shared in conversations and in school-wide displays, and programs that concentrate on developing the whole child — from daily Spanish instruction for every student to rich music and art experiences that are valued equally alongside more traditional content-specific subjects — are a priority.
The community overwhelmingly supports my daughter’s school. Thousands of parents and children turn out for after school events — whether they be teacher talent shows, campus beautification projects, or annual 5K run walks — to work, to play and to celebrate with one another. Each of these events is a reminder that our school isn’t just a place of learning — it’s a place to belong. Lots of schools like to talk about being a family. My daughter’s school actually FEELS like a family.
But they were rated a C — which means something akin to “decidedly average” — by the State of North Carolina last week. And that has me worried.
Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not worried about the current quality of the education that my daughter’s getting. I’ve seen the impact that the people in her building have had on her. She is LOVED by darn near everyone and she knows it. She is learning the kinds of academic and social skills that I want her to learn in a place where learning really IS seen as a joyful act worthy of celebration. She has role models to look up to who challenge her to be better than who she is — and I am convinced that those role models see her as something much more than just a test score. .
My guess is that it has been a stressful beginning of the school year for everyone at my daughter’s school. In a district that takes a lot of pride from having top “performing” students (read: really high test scores), being rated a C is guaranteed to leave everyone rattled and questioning their practices. There have probably been some serious conversations about changes that have to be made to get those test scores up for next year — and there is probably external pressure coming from folks in the district office to find solutions so that “this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.”
My only hope is that the teachers of my daughter’s school will realize just HOW important — and HOW valued — their work really is.
There is NOTHING “decidedly average” about the learning space that they have created. Children feel loved, parents feel welcomed, and students are learning WAY more than a single C rating based on nothing more than standardized tests could ever possibly communicate. I’d work there in a minute.
I’d send my daughter there for the rest of her school career without any reservation, convinced that she’d be a better person as a result of the care and attention of the teachers that she had a chance to learn from.”
Sounds like North Carolina and Alabama legislators are using the same playbook. The one that says professional educators should never be consulted when writing laws about education.