Last week, after we wrote about why three-fourths of Ohio schools could see their state ratings drop under a new, proposed school grading system, we heard from Toledo school district superintendent Jerome Pecko.
The new system would award A-F grades rather than designations like “Excellent” or “Continuous Improvement” and also make it harder to get a top rating. Toledo, for example, would move from a rating of “Continuous Improvement,” the equivalent of a C, to an F under the new system.
Pecko sent us a copy of a letter explaining why the A-F grades are “simple-minded.” We asked him, “are they any worse than the current grading system?” Here’s what he said:
The A-F system of grading a school district or building, in my humble opinion, is a very inaccurate way to describe the performance of a district. At a time when the country is calling for more rigor in what and how we teach, we simplify the system used to rate our schools’ performance in Ohio with a single letter grade. That is shameful to me and is furthermore an insult to those in our community who have some sensitivity to what we are attempting to accomplish as a school district. (Our school board, our city council, and our County Commissioners have all passed resolution to postpone the implementation of the A-F grading system.)
Quite frankly, the current grade designations aren’t really any better. If a person is truly interested in knowing to a high degree of accuracy, how well a district is doing, the person needs to turn to an inside page of the district’s local report card and look at the breakdown of students at each of the levels of performance. The rating needs to stop there. That way, those of us with extremely high rates poverty, special needs, and ESL, can celebrate the successes we are having while at the same time continue to work in earnest to raise the performance of children who fall into the limited and basic categories.
Finally, how smart is it for our leaders in Columbus to, on the one hand encourage businesses to come into or remain in our local communities, while it creates policy that is misleading and chases business away?
In TPS, we know we have our work cut out for us. We continue to maintain an aggresive focus on closing the achievement gap. There are a lot of reasons for TPS to celebrate student performance as well. Don’t condemn a whole district with a rating system that is at best misleading and in my opinion, flawed (lacking both validity and reliability).