Sunday, November 4, 2007

Diane Ravitch poses a question about the new school grades

A question for everyone to think about:

What is the purpose of giving a letter grade to schools?

In what way is this better than the previous report cards that included test scores, attendance, proportion of teachers who are certified, and a variety of other factors?

Isn't this akin to giving each child a single letter grade that lumps together his performance in every single area of his or her life at school? Would we really want to tell kids "you are a D student because your test scores are not as high this year as last year"? Doesn't it
make more sense to mark them in relation to their performance on a variety of tasks?

The whole scheme is simplistic and misleading. It humiliates people who are doing a good, even a great job, of educating children. It attempts to replace nuanced human judgment with a computer's calculations. The effort to remove human judgment is yet another sign of the degradation of education--a supremely human and judgmental activity--under the current DOE.

Diane Ravitch

For more reasons to distrust the new grading system, see an earlier posting here.

3 comments:

Wanda D said...

"Isn't this akin to giving each child a single letter grade that lumps together his performance in every single area of his or her life at school? Would we really want to tell kids "you are a D student because your test scores are not as high this year as last year"? Doesn't it make more sense to mark them in relation to their performance on a variety of tasks?" D. Ravitch

Yes it does make sense to grade them on a variety of tasks, but we don't. Who are you kidding? Our kids are graded by their test scores only. Don't try & tell me anything else. These kids are tested out of thier minds. Do we give them a letter grade...Nooooo we give them a number, and only 4 numbers to give them. You grade them with a "3"..you are right where you are suppose to be. Be where??!! Is that an 83% or a 73%. Still an average score, but when I see a 73% on my child's report card I know that he needs a little bit more extra help. A "3" tells me nothing but he is where he is suppose to be. So basically children either pass or fail. That's it. And yes if your grades are not high this year you get a failing grade like a "D" or a "F". It has always been like that. Hello...our children are not learning a thing. Ask any child to name any of the 50 states, how about a state capital or name a president beside Washington or Lincoln. Beside that the only person they know about in Amer History is Martin Luther King. Our kids do not know any spelling words, do not know any Amer History (real one, not the watered down version). The school system is failing our kids. Our kids are not learning anything except how to take a test. Had it occur to any of you that if you teach children varible lessons that they will learn & at the end of the school year give them city/state test. You will find that they can pass a test with the knowledge of what they have learned throughout the school year. Sad part is that you all are too busy pointing the blame to someone else & our kids suffer. "LET'S TEST THEM SOME MORE!" Whose brainy idea was that?? Oh that's right, someone else. TEACH THE CHILDREN AND THEY SHALL LEARN!!!!

Anonymous said...

ms ravitch doth protest too much. she should know better. previous report cards are a snapshot, a static picture of school achievement. these new letter grades measure --however imperfectly -- improvement in students' performance over time. that is a huge difference that allows us to see the educational "value-added" achieved by each school. no other metric really does this. with 55% of the grade based on this student progress, and even more credit for the ability to improve low-income minority students, these new letter grades are valuable in showing how well schools are actually educating kids.

as to those schools with good reputations that are getting Cs and Ds, the most charitable explanation is that their kids are so smart there is little room for improvement and so they suffer under this grading system. i suspect the truth is harhser. many of these places are simply coasting on long-overinflated reputations. maybe the administrators and parents at Center School or Salk in Manhattan, or PS 321 in Park Slope don't want to hear that. But then again, the emperor didn't like hearing he had no clother either.

Leonie Haimson said...

To anonymous: No! The school grading system devised by this administration does nothing to show sustained improvement "over time" as you claim, but merely one year's test scores, that are as likely to rise in any one year than fall.

Again, this a simplistic and wrong-headed solution to the much more complex problem of assessing what's actually happening in our schools. The guys at Tweed have once again revealed their profound arrogance and ignorance.