Is Our Schools Learning?
Apparently, New York City schools are getting grades, and parent groups are upset about this. They asked me and all the parents they could talk to during parent-teacher conferences to send letters to the mayor and others.
Luckily, I no longer try to impress random women by letting them dictate my opinions, so I asked the lady who tried to recruit my voice what difference it would make if the school got a B or a D, she wasn’t quite sure, but thought it might reflect in funding that goes to the school. I didn’t ask the follow-up, namely whether the B or the D gets more money. Oh, well.
The letter I’m supposed to sign has a list of grievances, all of which pertain to the flaws of a grading system. Ironic, given the context of parent-teacher conferences. Obviously, a major one is that the grading system tries to take into consideration both “achievement” and “progress,” which means that the only way to really get a good grade is to screw up initially.
The letter doesn’t address two flaws I can think of off the top of my head, namely (A) that, unlike a grade for a student which – as the name report card implies – is a report from the school to the parent, here the grader and the recipient of the report card is one and the same; and (B) that the grades aren’t an age-appropriate reflection. What I’m trying to say is that a third grader and a first grader can’t do the same work; neither can schools with differing histories and problems.
But none of this is what really gets my goat. What riled me is that the school that is complaining here got a B and wants an A. This is reflected in the final point on the letter: “the report card demoralizes whole school communities that have worked hard for the success of their schools.”
Is our school’s self-esteem so fragile that a grade makes all the difference? Eek.