My jaw dropped recently when I heard someone from the Alabama State Department of Education say that local school systems are using the A-F school report cards to identify strengths and weaknesses.
Wow. I have just surveyed dozens of school system superintendents from one end of the state to the other–and THAT is not what they told me.
Among the questions I asked was: At the end of the day, have these report cards been of benefit to your system in any way?
Here is a sampling of what they told me: “I see no benefit to our school system.” “Not in the least.” “Zero.” “No benefit.” “Not even slightly.” “I can’t see much benefit.” “No benefit at all.” “The report card has further tainted our public perception and has not been helpful.” “Little to none.” “Absolutely none at all.” “Considering the demoralizing effect on individuals who have done a yeoman’s job in the past, this report card is not good for our system or the state.”
I also wanted to know, What was reaction in your community? Or did anyone pay any attention?
The consensus was that hardly anyone noticed. Here are some responses: “Had no reaction.” “Parents and those who support public education were concerned that report cards did not truly depict their schools and their achievements. However, those who oppose public schools used these scores in a negative way.” “Very little attention.” “I had two people ask me about a school grade. One lady at church and one phone call from a local business owner.” “Outside of principals and central office staff, not one single person mentioned the report cards.”
What was reaction from principals and staff in schools that got C, D or F?
“School staffs were dismayed because all work extremely hard. Students were also deeply concerned about lower grades. Even though all recognize that this is an extremely flawed process, everyone wants their school represented with a good grade. The reality is there is no test, no sound measure of progress or anyone at the state department of education who can substantiate this process.” “Our elementary school had a 79 and the principal and staff were heartbroken. Growth and attendance were great, but when you have 200 students who don’t speak English fluently, achievement is nearly impossible.to achieve at the same level of schools without this situation.”
“Most principals and staff were very upset with a C because most of what happens at school is not even considered when the report card grade is issued.” “Principals and staff felt very overwhelmed and disappointed.” “Frustration because of the way the score was calculated and because they see every day what is taking place in their school and what kids are dealing with” “The principal whose school got a D was very disappointed. Her school is in a community with very high poverty, but it is a good school and a negative grade like this does nothing but drive people away”
“Many principals feel they are being portrayed as incompetent. They know they are doing the best they can with the resources they have. One said that if he had 25 years of service, he would retire and leave education.”
I also asked, Should this law be repealed?
As you can imagine, this got a resounding “YES.” Only one superintendent suggested that the process be amended to be more comprehensive.
Some samples: “This law is intended to privatize public education and further segregate our society.” “ABSOLUTELY, it should have never been passed.” “This report card is a very shortsighted attempt to label schools, not improve them.”
A-F was terrible legislation when passed in 2012. Everyone in education knew it. But as is too often the case, no one listened to people who actually understand what is taking places in our schools.
Now we have proof it was terrible.
So do we do what is best for our students and all who work diligently to guide them each day, admit our mistake, and correct it? Or do we cling desperately to false assumptions simply because some politicians put their own pride above the welfare of our children?
That choice is so clear there is no need for debate.