Putting Education Reform To The Test

What A School Grade Means To Parents

Florida’s system of giving schools grades from A-to-F has been in the spotlight this summer.

First, state officials made last-minute changes to the A-to-F formula, preventing more than 150 schools from dropping to F grades.

What's in a school grade? We asked parents.

Sammy Mack / StateImpact Florida

What's in a school grade? We asked parents.

Then, Florida’s education commissioner Tony Bennett resigned over reports that he manipulated school grades in Indiana when he was in charge of schools there.

Florida pioneered the A thru F school grade system in 1999. But now, even supporters are saying it’s time to revisit the formula.

With school about to start back up, we reached out to parents through the Public Insight Network and asked: What does a school’s grade even mean to you?

Robin Godby, teaches psychology at Broward College, parent of two middle schoolers:

A school grade, in no way, accurately conveys the quality of education provided to children. There is no emphasis on critical thinking skills, creativity, ethics, logic and an appreciation for learning.

Parents should be made aware that an “A” school doesn’t guarantee a good education. It only guarantees the amount of money the school will earn and burnout of good teachers.

Renata Castro, project manager, son in elementary school:

Unfortunately school grades influence the way I see the staff and the students in the school my son attends.

My son goes to what is a considered “ghetto” school—because we live in Margate—in spite of the fact it is an excellent school. [At my school] I feel that they really are invested in the overall success of my son. They know my son by name.

One of the things I really wish we could quantify, by feedback of other parents: What really is the involvement of the teachers and the principal?

I wish we had the Zagat of schools. As with anything, some people like chocolate, some people like vanilla. But I would like to see something around those lines.

I would like the students to have a voice. I personally think there is a lot of information that can be gathered from that.

I wish I could have a more holistic view of what really goes on in the school. It could lead to more engagement from the parents.

The right teacher will inspire people to do well beyond the classroom. Unfortunately the letter grade is all I have to measure the school by.

Barbara Van Diepen, retired educator and grandparent of a high schooler:

As a teacher, it’s added stress to make sure each child performs to the best of their ability. As a grandparent, it is added stress on the children. The grades are so skewed—and the rules are constantly changing—that the grades are essentially meaningless.

Yet the general public takes them at face value—which is a disservice to the teachers and schools. I can’t deny that it is a factor I looked at.

That’s why it is so important for parents to be visible and involved at the school. By volunteering you soon learn what the quality of education is at the school.

Elizabeth Gonzalez, paralegal, parent of a middle schooler and a recent high school grad:

A school’s grade demonstrates the effort (or lack thereof) not only of the students and their parents, but of the teachers, the administration, and the support staff towards making that school’s environment conducive to learning and excelling.

In light of the implementation of Common Core, and the fact that the school grades come from the FCAT scores (which the teachers spend half the school year drilling the kids on), I don’t believe the school grades accurately reflect how much effort the teachers are putting forth with the students in the actual classroom.

During the last few years my younger son has been attending school, he comes home with A LOT of homework—which makes me question how much time is spent on actual subjects, and how much of the time is being spent working on FCAT.

I am fortunate that my younger son’s school, Ponce de Leon Middle School, is an “A” school and an international languages magnate.

How am I really supposed to know how much of that “A” belongs to the teaching of core subjects as opposed to FCAT?

Carolina Garcia, kindergarten teacher, parent of a child in middle school and high school:

A school’s grade means little to me. It is simply a waste of time. I am certain that an educator in a low-performing school works as hard or harder than a teacher in a top-performing school. I think that FCAT strategies are useful lifelong tools, but the FCAT should not be the greater percentage of those school grades.

I am both an educator and a parent. My son left public school with a 2 on his fifth grade FCAT. After a year in private school, his performance in those same areas scored over a tenth-grade performance on the Iowa test.

For me the grades should consist of the quality of teachers in the school. How much training have these teachers had? Do they continue to train? How do those grades align with the Common Core?

I’m a firm believer that all children can learn. That’s why I’m a teacher.

These parents connected with us through the Public Insight Network, an online community of people who have agreed to share their opinions with WLRN and the Miami Herald. Become a news source by going to WLRN.org/Insight.


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