Friday, February 3, 2023

AZ: How Do You Make School Grading Systems Worse

One of the more useless ideas to come out of education reform was the school grade--giving each school an A, B, C, D, or F. It's a way to fake a gloss on simply saying that a school is great or average or lousy, and it has the same problem of being hugely reductive. What does an A rating even mean?

Spoiler alert: it mostly has meant that the school gets high scores on the Big Standardized Test. But parents look for so much more-- arts education, sports programs, how "good" the teachers are, which is itself nearly impossible to quantify. 

It's an inherently clumsy metric, like a stick that will only tell if something is five feet, three feet, or one foot long (we'll just round off all other answers) while simultaneously providing no information at all about how deep or wide the object is. It is a low-information metric, but depending no who you ask, the school grades were good for:

Finding a simple way to prove that public schools were failing

Finding a simple way to target certain schools for takeover or conversion to charter

Finding a simple way to targeting some students for a state's School Choice Starter Kit

Finding a simple way for parents to shop for a school

School grades are not really good for any of those because of that whole low information thing. Complex operations require complex measures. Try grading your spouse each day on an A-F scale and see how that works out for you.

And the more dimensions you try to measure, the more reductive your letter grade system, and the more information starved and meaningless your grade becomes.

How could we make it worse? 

This guy
Tom Horne has an idea. Arizona maintains its hostility to public education by putting an anti-public ed guy in the office of state superintendent, and Tom Horne has been exemplary. We'll save his many accomplishments for another day, but let's note this is the guy who helped lead the charge to get Mexican-American studies out of schools. Also, his first act as superintendent was to get rid of the education department's Office of Diversity.

Horne's idea is to have the school letter grades include a rating for how much Critical Race Theory they're teaching

“I stand for the philosophy that individuals are primary and race is irrelevant,” said Horne, a Republican. He expects school conversations on race and identity to follow this format, he said.

Horne said his team is still developing a plan for how to best collect information on what schools are teaching and how to include that in the letter grade formula, he said.

Well, yes. If you can't really explain what it is, it will be mighty hard to collect data on how much of it is being taught in each school. Horne believes that social and emotional learning, restorative justice or diversity, equity and inclusion frameworks are all “Trojan horses” for critical race theory, and he swears he's heard first hand accounts of CRT being taught in classrooms. So who knows how much he'll find, or how that will affect a school's grade. One letter grade for each mention of white privilege? 

By no means not the worst thing happening to public education in Arizona, but one more indicator of how far off the rails they have gone.

1 comment:

  1. Schools should be "rated" on the only things they can control: