First, let me begin with full disclosure and transparency. On November 14, the Indiana Department of Education released the 2017-18 accountability grades. My school earned a C. Last year, the IDOE rated our school a B, but last year, we were only rated on growth. If we were rated on both growth and proficiency, our grade would have been an F. This year, we were rated on growth and proficiency like the majority of schools across the state of Indiana. I never celebrated the B, and I do not necessarily celebrate the C. I will celebrate that we are moving academically in both in growth and proficiency. We are on our way to an A, not to the given A, but the earned A.
When the IDOE released the school ratings, many schools celebrated their success and accomplishments. Many schools serving black and brown poor children made exceptional growth. Unfortunately, there were those schools that continued to underperform. They scored an F for consecutive years, some for the second year, some for the third year, and some for even the fifth year. Then, you have the schools that are graded differently, but they are given the same recognition. Just like most things in Indiana, our education system is complicated. Education in our state is hard to follow and hard to understand. Some schools are given a grace period before they are rated on proficiency. My school was in the same boat just last year. The letter grades those schools get from the state is based on growth only. For the record, I am not against growth because I understand growth is how you get to proficiency, but I believe we should be cautious about giving away things that should be earned.
I grew up playing sports. I first played little league sports. At the end of the season we had a celebration where we would celebrate the accomplishments of the season; however, as I got older, I learned we celebrated the accomplishment of finishing the season not necessarily what was earned. There was only one champion. There was only one team that would be number one. I never wanted anything given to me. At an early age, I wanted to earn everything I received. I can honestly say the things that I have in my life are the result of hard work and effort. I learned to keep pushing and never be satisfied with just completing something. Improvement is good, but it is about mastery.
You must earn it. You do not get a high school diploma just because you do four years of high school. You do not get a college degree just because you do four more years of school after high school. Showing up for the job interview does not mean you will get the job. Showing up to work does not mean you get paid. You have to earn it.
The IDOE gave out a lot of participation trophies. They gave schools A ratings they did not earn. Explain to me how you rate a school an A where less than 30% of their students were proficient on the math and reading assessment? How do you give the same grade to that school and a school where over 70% of their students were proficient? Explain that to me. Do you want to give false hope? Do you want people to believe they are high performing? To me, we have just devalued an A rating. It doesn’t mean anything to be A rated school. Many parents will read the paper and search for schools, and the first thing they will see is A ranked school. Many of them won’t think to look at how the children performed on the math and reading assessment. So here they go sending their child to this school because it is rated an A and they are passing less than half their student population. Then you have the school up the street who may not be knocking it out of the park, but they are at least passing half or almost half the children, but they get a C or D rating. Trust me; I did the calculation. You can pass 50% of your kids and sometimes even 60% of them and be rated as a C. Can you honestly look me in the eyes with a straight face and say that is better?
Lastly, what is even more unfortunate about this false A is what happens when they cushion is flatten. When the grace period is no more and when the playing field is leveled that school that had less than 30% proficiency and received an A rating will become an F rated school. Then everyone will talk about how bad the school is and how much they have dropped even though the school had poor performance while it was rated an “A.” Let’s say the school does improve and goes from 20% of students being proficiency to 40%. The school doubled their growth, but because how they are graded has changed, now they are rated an F school.
Let’s not give our schools participation trophies. Give them the grade they deserve and celebrate the growth they make, but do not give a false narrative. To schools that are currently celebrating being an A when you are passing less than 50% of your students, do yourself, your students, your families, and all of us a favor and don’t celebrate something that was given; that undermines those that earned it.