By Nancy Franke
In 2011, Indiana led the charge by implementing the A-F grades as a way to communicate to parents and communities about how well schools are working to help students succeed.
Almost six years later, many school and community stakeholders are spinning heads over the accuracy of the A-F rating system. The ever-changing “formula” used as an indicator for school grades continues to raise concerns and questions as to how accurate are the grades as well as how effective they are in truly improving education.
In our own community, we have seen our public schools’ grades shift like a squall storm from D’s to A’s and then, down again.
We have witnessed parochial schools grades fall in one year from an outstanding A to a D. Most recently, we learned St. John’s Sauers Lutheran School, which holds a reputation for offering quality education to students for 175 years, has been plagued with an “F” in its first year of the school becoming accredited by the state in order to accept state-funded Choice tuition vouchers.
What gives? Why are schools and communities taking such extreme hits with the fluctuation of grades? Why does one school continue to receive A’s, while another school’s grades are dismal year after year? What areas need to be taken into consideration?
The rigor of the test as well as benchmarks continue to increase without regard to the cognitive growth of a child. The tests are unfairly attempting to measure the child’s growth all while continuing to raise the bar. If a student shows substantial growth and are told they aren’t quite on track the following year because their score plateaus or does not reach the raised benchmark, it is assumed the school has failed in offering quality education.
Low-performing schools tend to have a higher population of low-income, special education/resource, and non-speaking English language learners. When a child who suffers from learning challenges or cannot successfully read a new language, of course their struggles will be far greater when attempting to take a high-stakes test.
Too many indicators result in meaningless numbers. For example, if a high school does not produce a high percentage of college-bound graduates or SAT test-takers, points may be deducted from the school in the grading calculation.
This does not fare well for school corporations which are trying to give balanced educational opportunities for both college-ready and career- ready students.
The measures behind an A-F accountability grade deserve the true failing grade. There is absolutely no research which proves the accountability grading system is effective in creating quality schools. Our schools are plagued with problems resulting from the formulas and are unfairly punished, all while politics continue to play the larger role in a child’s education.
Indiana took the lead in thinking outside the box. This particular brainchild design is clearly unsuccessful as it continues to waste taxpayer dollars, time, effort and resources.
Educators are all for accountability, however there needs to be a balance which works.
Seymour resident Nancy Franke is an educator at St. Peter’s Lutheran School in Columbus and a member of the Seymour Community School Corp. board. Send comments to email@example.com