Thursday, September 3, 2009

The absurd, silly, ridiculous school grades

See articles on this year’s elementary and middle school grades, or “progress reports”: Times, NY Post, Daily News, NY1, and this piece in Gotham schools (the best).

They are replete with examples of the absurd results, with schools such as PS 82 in the Bronx jumping from an “A” to an “F” and back this year to an “A”. PS 8 in Brooklyn which got an “F” last year and this year got an “A”, with the principal saying they did nothing different. The three schools that Klein tried to close last year to put charter schools in their place-- P.S. 194, 241 and 150 – all got “As”.

In fact, 84% of the schools got an “A” this year, and only two schools out of more than one thousand got “F”s. This is grade inflation that would put any human being other than Joel Klein to hide his head in shame.

And yet, according to the NY Times, “he clearly took pride in the results. “If you’re asking whether I would rather see less A’s,” he said, “the answer is no.”

Meanwhile, 87% of principals said in a recent survey that their schools were unable to provide a quality education because of excessive class sizes.

The absurdity of the grades this year derive from two profound flaws: First, 85% of the grade is based on one year’s gains or losses in test scores, which experts have found to be statistically unreliable and extremely erratic.

And two, the state tests have become so much easier and their scoring so lax that students can pass them without reading the questions – as long as they manage to fill in a few bubbles along the way. (For more on this scandal, well-reported everywhere except the Times, see the Daily News here and here, Gotham Schools and this NY Post column by Diane Ravitch.)

I wrote an oped for the Daily news about the new grading system when it was first announced in the fall of 2007: “Why parents & teachers should reject new school grades.” It starts out this way: “The new school grading system unveiled this week by Chancellor Joel Klein is a fiasco.”

But what do you expect when you had two guys in charge, Liebman and Klein, who are ignorant as to statistics, the unreliability of test scores, and even the larger goals of education?

Perhaps the best result is where we have now arrived: hopefully everyone realizes that the emperor has no clothes and they should ignore these silly grades, as they should have in the first place.


Anonymous said...

The school in the Bronx that went from an 'A' to an 'F' and back to an 'A' is C.S. 92, and not P.S. 82, as written in the article. The school is a great school and a great place to work, and the dramatic rebound in the score reflects a great deal of work by the school's teachers and Principal who worked closely with parents to help their children. Whatever you say about the Progress Reports, the school did good by it's students.

Anonymous said...

I have a recollection that in the first year or so of Mayor Bloomberg's first term, he himself started a campaign to grade his own administration on various issues. He claimed re-assessments would be done periodically (I don't remember how often). I don't remember hearing anything about that after that first announcement. Does anyone remember this?

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Loves to Face Premium said...

Doesn't this news weaken the argument that the ATR's are 'bad' teachers? The argument was that they must have been bad because they came from 'failing' schools(it was implied that there ineptness was part of the reason the schools 'failed'). But now we see that the system of grading the schools that was employed was itself faulty. In addition, we see how ridiculous it was/is to attach simplistic letter grades to schools. It makes it so easy for people to attack. "Look", they'd say, "that school got an 'F' it's written right here in the newspaper. How can you defend it(against whatever scheme, be it closing or charter takeover Bloomie/Klein had in mind)?"

Mr. Bloomberg, now that you're sysem of grading has been exposed as a sham, how are you going to give the ATR's their reputations back, and the neighborhoods their schools back?

eze666 said...

Regardless of whether or not you like the school where you work, where your child goes to school, or anything else...

How in the world does a school system where almost half of the children fail to graduate, and many that do graduate do not have the basic skills to prepare them for college or a job...

Give 84% of their school an A? How is this reasonable, logical, or explicable? What does this say about these grades? What does it say about the people who come up with the grades?

These are a bunch of lies. The data is garbage. The analysis is garbage. I find it infuriating. You may like your school, and if so, that's great. Just be aware that most of those "A"'s don't really indicate anything substantive about the schools, and neither does the one "F".

Our children are being cheated by a broken system and a corrupt and immoral mayoral administration.