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Grading the System

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The release of this month’s New York City school report cards and the threatened teacher witch-hunt, as reported earlier, has principals questioning the system as well, reports the New York Times. The report cards graded schools on how they fared citywide, as well as against schools with similar demographics. To further complicate matters, the grading system focused on rewarding improved student performance, which ironically occurs more often in low-performing schools. After receiving complaints from leaders of top-tier schools who had their own suggestions for equalizing the system, the city decided to factor in bonus points for strong scores on the state's Regents exam.

Randy Asher, principal of B-rated Brooklyn Technical High School, says the decision to add extra points is ridiculous. “I think we all really came to the table saying, let’s find something fair for schools like ours,” he said. “And I don’t think we succeeded.”

Others have complained about the oversimplification of the grading process. “It is reductive to give a school, which is a complex organism, a single letter grade,” said New York City school historian Diane Ravitch.

The schools' chief accountability officer James Liebman sees the grading process as imperfect, but "evolving." Giving schools grades, he says, "does concentrate attention, and that's what this is about."

5 Comments

It's all about accountability - how else can we best measure success or failure? The future of our children is at stake. For more information on school reform, visit www.paths2choice.com.

Who are we grading, the students, the teachers, the parents, the politicians or the administrators? Are we lumping everyone that impacts student learning into one big group and grading them, and for what purpose? Until a district implements a statistically valid way of measuring teacher and administrator performance any discussion of accountability is meaningless.

To grade (assess) a school, one must decide on the criteria. So far, I've seen few that can define the criteria for a whole high school. I see a lot of "knee jerk" criteria that are baseless for 2007, not to mention 2020 or 2040.
Why do some think that one size fits all, or that all can achieve to the same level. Students are different. Families are different. Communities are different. Cultures are different. How can one set of criteria fit all? Why do some think they should fit all?
If one size fits all, why do most innovations come from the US? Why not from the countries that force standardization on their students?
Why not try to improve all schools and opportunities for all students? Why is it wrong for some schools to stress English, another Math, another Performing Arts? You say it is not, but do you want to use the same (or similar) criteria to judge them all, as in the so called NCLB.
As long as the politicians see education as a way to get headlines or their way, we are in deep trouble.
Perhaps, the USA will get a chance to experience "third world" status sooner than we think. Sorry, Greatest Generation, I think you spawned the most self-centered generations.

I personally agree with Bob Icenogle. In addition, I am from France where all the provinces are graded in the same manner at the federal level. Back in America, there are so many states with very different views about education, therefore, I do not believe that one student who gets an A grade in New York city is the same as a student who gets an A grade in Seattle, wa just because of their community's income level. But the Seattle student might go on to find a job in New York city, and a future employer will judge those 2 students the same because of their grades (1st job), but did the students accomplish and learn the same in school? Probably not! I do believe in numbers for grades. when one goes from 70% to 80% that make sense. When one goes from C- to C+ is there a real meanning?

thank you Pascale

I think there are things (outcomes) that we can grade for all schools. I think that the argument that schools are SO different that we can't possibly evaluate them is a smoke screen. No one wants them all to be identical; everyone wants clear standard of performance for all of them and all our children on the skills/knowledge that they will need for life today and for life in the future, as best we can understand it.

The blame game is probably a waste of time. Let's find out what's not working and fix it so that as many schools as possible do as much good as possible for as many students as possible.

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  • tim: I think there are things (outcomes) that we can grade read more
  • Pascale Turner: I personally agree with Bob Icenogle. In addition, I am read more
  • Bob Icenogle: To grade (assess) a school, one must decide on the read more
  • Mike Silver: Who are we grading, the students, the teachers, the parents, read more
  • Debbie Smith: It's all about accountability - how else can we best read more

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