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Accurate school ‘grades’ good news for parents

May 3, 2012
Salem News

No one wants to hear the schools to which they have entrusted their children are not doing a good job. But if a fair evaluation determines that is so, downplaying the situation does no one any favors.

Ohio officials are considering a new system of evaluating schools, involving assigning them letter grades much like students receive. Critics say grades under the new plan would be significantly lower than those handed out now.

Columbus school Superintendent Gene Harris complained last week her system's grade, now a "C," would drop to a "D" if the proposal is implemented. She added she does not believe the state proposal would provide an accurate assessment of school quality, in large measure because it would not take student progress into account.

Some legislators are sympathetic to complaints about the proposal because public school teachers and administrators would have little time to adjust to it. If implemented, it would go into effect in September.

Proponents of the plan think it is needed to improve some schools that are failing their students. If members of the public see their local schools receiving low letter grades - the kind they understand because of their experience and that of their children in the classroom - they are more likely to demand improvement.

Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, put it succinctly in testimony to legislators: "No one wants their school to have an 'F'."

Still, the grading system needs to be accurate, taking all factors including student improvement, into account. And schools should have adequate time to prepare for it.

If some tinkering with the state's proposed grading criteria is needed, legislators should mandate that be done. But they should not alter the plan to the point it paints an unrealistically good picture of any school in Ohio.



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