How to Help Our Schools Make the Grade

No doubt the NC General Assembly intended their new A-F grading system for our K-12 schools to be another nail in their “schools are broken” coffin, but to their credit the schools are not taking this lying down. They have correctly pointed out that a grade giving predominant weight (80%) to students’ performance on standardized test scores is not a true reflection of a school’s overall performance, given that a student’s academic growth over a school year is hardly taken into account, nor does it factor in societal conditions that schools must contend with beyond academics, inconvenient truths such as poverty, hunger and broken families. Upon release of the grades, the schools are doing what they do best, using the new grades as a teaching lesson for their communities. They point out that if a particular school received a D or F grade it invariably indicates the school’s predominant low-income population, and they have been busy creating alternative grading formulas that show their schools in a much more positive light. That the General Assembly gave little credence to our schools and the Department of Public Instruction when coming up with this grading formula is an outrage and a testament to their willfully ignorant policymaking regarding education, and yet I’m not sure the schools quite understand that by protesting so mightily and deriving alternative grades they are playing into the GA’s hands and reinforcing their “schools are broken” mantra. What those of us trying to make sense of all this  back and forth need to understand is that it shouldn’t be entirely left to the schools and their staffs to fight for our public education system that is currently under attack. That burden falls on us, the parents of school age children and the communities that decline or thrive depending on the quality of education our schools produce.

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