Let me start by saying that I know that some educators out there will say “This is easy for you to say. You’re in an “A-rated” school and you’re in an affluent community.”
And those people would be correct. It is easy for me to say. That’s the point.
Because it is easy for me to say, I need to say that school grades based on a single test measure do not and will never accurately portray the true value of a school. There have been many opponents to standardized testing in the past but those of us who have benefitted from these assessments and the subsequent school ratings have to stand up for our colleagues in the education field. Because while my school staff and community will be celebrating how well we performed, there are friends of mine throughout education who are crushed right now. Devastated because the perception of their school will change because of a single letter grade.
This is wrong on so many levels.
Florida released school grades a few days ago. This time the scores are based on the two-year comparison of the FSA (Florida Standards Assessments) that was first implemented last year. These school grades are the first “official” grade to be given with our new assessments. The school grades that were released for the previous year were termed “Informational Baseline” with the preposed caveat that there were no consequences for those grades (I will get back to that in a moment).
So the grades came out and my school is “A-rated” once again. But what does that mean? I honestly don’t feel that this tells anywhere near the complete story of what my school is. Walk through our halls, talk to our students and staff, ask the community. I believe you will hear about a school filled with love, happiness, a desire to help all students, and individuals seeking to innovate so that our students are always exposed to the best possible practices, strategies and technologies that help make their lives better.
And I believe that most schools are filled with the same love and happiness, the same desire to do whatever it takes for kids. But, unfortunately, so many schools are living under the fear of the almighty school grade. Numerous schools are forced to deliver curriculum and strategies designed specifically to raise test scores. And yes they are forced, because there is always a consequence for school grades, whether the State says so or not. The biggest consequence is public perception. We are so conditioned to believe in school grades based off of a test that only measures how well students do on the FSA in English Language Arts, Math, and Science (for elementary schools). Schools that don’t perform well on these accountability measures aren’t always afforded the opportunities to innovate and try new ideas like those of us who do perform well.
I have been talking to educator friends of mine, both teachers and principals, from different schools these past few days. Some are so distraught because their school grade “dropped”. One of my friends, who is one of the best teachers that I have ever met, said “Does this really mean that from last year to this year we just sat around and did nothing to educate our kids? We still have the same passionate and dedicated teachers.” All of our schools are filled with caring, compassionate educators who are relentless in their pursuit of helping make kids’ lives better. All of our schools have students who deserve the best each day.
This madness needs to stop. We need the general public to wake up and realize that we are demoralizing entire school communities and reducing their efforts to nothing by placing a grade on them. While some of us have freedom and are highly regarded because of these grades, there are so many more educators who don’t have that opportunity. We need everyone to talk about this and spread the word. Our schools are so much more than a letter grade.