When I first learned that North Carolina was implementing School Performance Grades, I was skeptical. I understood that there needed to be a way to assess the performance of schools, but I didn’t understand why we needed letter grades to do that. I mean, couldn’t there just be a progress report of sorts that had detailed information about what the schools are doing well and what they need to improve? As I learned more about School Performance Grades, I began to realize that they aren’t all bad, however some of my skepticism remains.
Now, I know that the majority of people, if not everybody, is familiar with the basic system of giving letter grades, A is best, F is worst. However, I’d like to know more about why a school is given their particular grade. If a parent sees that the school around the corner has a C, but another a few miles away has an A, they’re going to want their child do go to the “A” school. But does that parent really know the positives and negatives of each school? More importantly, does that parent know his or her child’s learning style and the ways in which the teachers at each school teach? When looking at a simple “A” or “C” letter grade, a parent may learn a little bit about an individual school, but I feel it’s important to delve deeper into figuring out just what exactly that school is doing to earn their letter grade.
A positive in regards to the letter grading system is that we can see growth within schools. If a school is given a C one year, and the next they are given a B, we see that they have improved in some way. These letter grades are a quick and easy way to measure quality and growth, but without really understanding what was done to earn the grade, the letter itself is useless.
My skepticism remains when I think about the School Performance Grades because I think that, depending on who gives these grades, they can be misinterpreted. They can also be misinterpreted by parents who decide to put their child in an “A” school without doing further research. This letter grading system is a fast way to learn how schools are doing, but without digging deeper and learning about the school, it’s practices, administrators, faculty, and staff, we do not really know how well a school is doing in comparison to another.