Yesterday, the state released the latest school performance grades.
These performance grades again serve as a clear indication of what our leaders are not doing to help students in public schools. Of the schools that received a D or an F from the state, look how many qualify as schools with high poverty.
What the state again proves with this grading system is that it is ignoring the very students who need the most help – not just in the classroom, but with basic needs such as early childhood programs and health care accessibility. These performance grades also show that schools with smaller class sizes and more individualized instruction are more successful, a fact lawmakers willfully ignore when it comes to funding our schools to avoid overcrowding.
Even Mark Johnson’s press release from last year’s school performance grades admit that what is hurting so many schools are factors that cannot be controlled by teachers and other school officials.
“No one can deny the correlation to poverty in the struggles those schools face in meeting growth. I saw it myself when I taught in a school that served students from an economically challenged neighborhood. Meeting the demands of growth and proficiency is very difficult when students come into classrooms already behind where we need them to be and, worse, facing serious struggles outside of school” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/09/08/highs-lows-school-performance-grades/).
Makes one wonder what efforts have been taken over the last year to help that situation. iPads? Read to Achieve? Nothing?
So as a parent, teacher, voter and taxpayer, I want to offer my own grades to the very officials who control the conditions of school environments and manipulate how schools are graded:
The General Assembly receives an “F” for the following actions:
• The denial of Medicaid expansion for students who live in poverty. It is hard to perform academically when basic medical needs cannot be met. One in 5 students in Forsyth County is in poverty. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools had an overall rate of 41.1 percent of schools with a D or F.
• The financing of failed charter schools that have no oversight and are, in many cases, acts of financial recklessness. New oversight rules are being requested in light of questionable use of taxpayer money as 10 charter schools are currently on a watch list.
• The funding of vouchers (Opportunity Grants) that effectively removed money for public education and reallocated it to charter schools.
• The underfunding of our public university system, which forces increases in tuition, while giving tax breaks to companies who benefit from our educated workforce.
• The removal of longevity pay for all veteran teachers, who now are the only state employees without it.
• The dismantling of the Teaching Fellows Program (and its anemic reconstruction) that recruited our state’s brightest to become the teachers of our next generation.
The Office of the State Superintendent receives an “F” for the following:
• The emphasis on publicizing favorable graduation rates rather than on addressing the social factors that impede learning, particularly at the preschool or elementary levels.
• The administration of too many tests (EOCTs, MSLs, CCs, NC Finals, etc.). These change every year, take more time away from instruction and measure very little.
• The engagement with profit-motivated companies that dictate not only what teachers are allowed to teach but also how students are assessed. Pearson, for example, provides not only curriculum standards for many of the subjects taught in North Carolina, but also insists you use Pearson-made standardized tests many of which require that Pearson employees grade them — for a price.
AND THE RELIANCE ON EVAAS SCORES WHEN THE ALGORITHMS THAT CONTROL THOSE SCORES ARE KEPT SECRET.
Schools provide a great reflection of a society and how it prioritizes education. When our schools are told that they are failing, those with the power to affect change are really the ones who deserve the failing grades.