Monday, May 6, 2013

The Governor's Grades

I don't know why I'm so impatient with the huge flap over the Maine Education Department's new school grades. It just seems everyone, from those defending them to those deriding them, is missing the point.

Some say it gives us an inaccurate picture of what is happening in our schools. Some say it doesn't take into account socioeconomic status of our school districts. Others criticize the metrics used to establish these grades, saying that they are statistically invalid -- which is certainly true.

Hard to know what to make of it. Our public education system is based on producing good scores on state standardized tests. With or without these school grades, that's how we are being judged. We have all given our tacit approval to this system. And this is what we get. We complain when someone mangles the data to serve his own purposes, but we don’t complain when for over 10 years high-stakes testing has mangled our education system?

Heather Perry, our local Superintendent, says she knows our schools need to do better. I agree. But when you say, "We know we need to do better," you have to also ask, "Better than what?"

The first step to a solution, they say, is admitting there is a problem. The problem is that over a decade of high-stakes testing have brought stagnation and decline to our schools.  We need to stand up and say no to testing and standardization, but I don't think that's on the To Do list in RSU 3. We will continue to try and "do better" and define this by our test scores...because if we don't, we're in deep doo-doo, aren't we?

Regardless of what we know to be beneficial to the education of our children, we are being judged by their performances on tests. Regardless of any effort to improve education in our district, we will be judged by our children's performances on tests. And if we don't perform, we will submit to consequences.

You don't want our schools to be judged on the basis of test scores? Then do something about it. Opt out. Refuse. Say no.

If you do nothing, then you really can't complain just because your school got an F.

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