Indiana state board may give letter grade to schools

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Florida is famous for its letter grade system that ranks public school performance based on a statewide standardized test, known as the FCAT.

Indiana state board members are considering following in Florida’s foot steps in assigning letter grades to schools.

Currently, the state of Indiana assesses a school’s performance according to a statewide standardized test. The results of the test places each school in one of five categories: exemplary progress, commendable progress, academic progress, academic watch or academic probation.

Some are in favor of the change:

“I would love to have a statewide system of accountability that means something and that people understand,” said Tony Bennett, Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction.

and some are not:

Because of the way the ranking formula works, schools with increasing student performance could receive an A for several years and then drop to an F if they taper off even a little, said Stephen Gabet, a board member from Fort Wayne.

“That’s a slap in the face,” he said.

Being that I went through my entire education in the state of Florida (and am now in college in the same state), I have been privy to the letter grading of public schools. Let me be the first to say that giving schools letter grades that ultimately serve as the school’s first impression and affects how it is viewed in the community, is a mimicry of its efforts.

All novelty aside, giving a school a letter grade based upon a single standardized test is degrading. The FCAT shows results of only a few days of the school year. It does not track a student’s gradual progress throughout the year.

Let’s discuss what letter grades mean to a student. An “A” can either mean that you worked extremely hard and had a good grasp of the material, or it can mean the material is below you and you slacked off the whole year and still got an “A.” How about a “D” or an “F”? Does it mean that you’re stupid and lazy, or does it simply mean you tried your best and that is what became of your efforts? An “F” could suggest behavioral problems or issues at home.

Basically, we should not rate a school’s performance with a single letter. Doing so provides no answers on improving or encouraging the school, and does not specify to the community exactly what it is that the school needs to improve upon.

What do you think? Should Indiana follow suit?
The original article appeared today in The St. Petersburg Times. Check it out.

For more information about Indiana’s education system, visit their website.

Do you think Indiana should use a letter grade system to rate public schools?

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