Recently, the Maine Department of Education released the governor’s “school grades,” labeling schools in Maine with an “A” to “F” letter grade.
However, these “grades” are hardly worth talking about. What is important to understand is where they come from and what they tell us about our schools.
First, these grades were created without any input from schools, administrators, teachers, or students. They are based on standardized test scores and graduation rates, and if a school had fewer than 90 percent of its students present on the test date, its score automatically dropped a letter grade.
Second, a school’s standardized test scores are strongly correlated with the proportion of their students living in poverty, and so are the governor’s school grades. The schools that received an “F” have, on average, more than 60 percent of their students eligible for free or reduced lunch, while schools that received an “A” have fewer than 10 percent of high school students and only 25 percent of elementary school students eligible for free or reduced lunch.
These grades tells us more about the level of a family’s income rather than the quality of a child’s education.
Every school is different, just as the communities they serve are different. One clear issue these grades highlight is that the governor has not done anything in his three years in office to put our students first. He has cut funding to public education, Head Start, and he wants to shift the costs of teacher retirement to cash-strapped municipalities.
If we want our students and schools to succeed, we should praise their successes and support them in the areas where they are struggling, not shame them with bad grades.
On Wednesday, my colleagues who serve on the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee held a press conference to address the issues they see with this grading system and announced a counter-proposal for school accountability. Their bill will create a fair evaluation system that will involve education stakeholders and is based on student progress and local improvement measures, not standardized test scores.
I am pleased that the committee recognized the need for input from educators and those who work in our schools every day in the formation of an evaluation system for our schools. It is important to know how we can best support school improvement, and a well-crafted and thoughtful evaluation system can do that.
Our schools are our future. As the stepmother of a Maine public school teacher, I understand how hard educators work each day of the year to see their students succeed. We all want schools to be the best they can be, and we need to provide teachers the tools they need to improve the classroom and strengthen the learning experience for our students. However, labeling and degrading schools that face difficult challenges does not help anyone.
State and Local News