Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Report Cards: The Day After

It's the day after report cards! As always, parents sit at home analyzing grades, conferring with friends and generally working themselves into states of panic. This time, parents are seeing grades given to their children's schools and principals. Like a child's report card, though, school report cards lack depth and are narrow in scope.

"Many educators object to a score that is largely based on standardized test scores," says Beth Handman, assistant principal of P.S.321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn. "although it is broken up in a variety of ways, the fact remains that 85% of a schools grade is related to testing. It is also true that the people doing the grading do not spend time in the schools they grade. That alone makes the report card somewhat invalid. You cannot evaluate a school with a mathematic formula, schools are made of people."

Ms. Handman's words are echoed around the city. Many parents see these grades as another step toward an entirely test-centered curriculum for their children.
While I agree with Mayor Bloomberg that, "information is power," this is one of those situations where we are forced to question the accuracy of our information. Not only do grades focus on test scores, they focus on improvement from year to year in test scores. This means that an extremely high functioning school may receive a low grade simply because their test scores were equally excellent two years in a row.

In a recent New York Times article by Jennifer Medina and Elissa Gootman, Ellen Foote, the principal of P.S.289 says, "I do not want to devote more time to teaching to the tests... Is that what's required now to get a good grade on this progress report? That's a compromise that I don't think I am willing to make." Here, Here!

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