By Larry Lee
Back in 2012 state representative Terri Collins of Decatur got legislation passed that requires all schools in the state to receive a letter grade of A through F. And after spending thousands of hours and thousands of dollars trying to come up with some decent way to measure all the complexities that make a school a school, this is supposed to get cranked off later this year.
But apparently no one ever pointed out to Ms. Collins Section 16-3-14 of the Alabama code. So here it is:
Grading and standardizing schools.
The State Board of Education shall prescribe rules and regulations for the grading and standardizing of public schools.
(School Code 1927, §37; Code 1940, T. 52, §16.)
Where does this say it is the responsibility of the legislature to grade schools as the A-F bill plans to do?
And why hasn’t anyone on the state school board mentioned this code section and politely sent a message to Ms. Collins that she does not have the authority to do what she is doing?
No, rather than follow the law, we just blissfully prepare to implement a system that other states have tried and come to find out it is terribly flawed.
A blue ribbon committee of primarily educators was convened a few years ago to come up with a grading formula. They worked for two years and never were able to please Ms. Collins. At the end of the day, they just threw up their hands. Now a totally new formula is in place and one member of the original committee told me it ignores most of the committee’s work.
And A-F gets all tangled up with the infamous Alabama Accountability Act. This act arbitrarily says that six percent of all public schools are failing. So now the A-F gurus say we will use the F schools identified by A-F and say they will be the failing schools for the accountability act designation. They also say that if six percent are F, then only six percent can be A. So we then split B, C and D into equal segments of 29.33 percent.
As one superintendent said to me, “Can you imagine if all school systems in the state used the same formula to give grades to students?”
All Hell would break loose.
As many other states have learned, A-F school grades serve no useful function. They are only used to make public schools look bad.
Need proof? Ms. Collins bill does not say that we will lift a finger to help those schools labeled as an F. Which is the same thing the accountability act does. Ignore those who need help the most.
So we have a law that is illegal, that serves no good purpose, that ignores input from our best education minds and that just pats kids in struggling schools on the head and wishes them well.
For a people who so openly tout their virtue, it’s amazing how often we ignore Matthew 25:40:
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Larry Lee led the study Lessons Learned from Rural Schools and is a longtime advocate for public education. [email protected] Read his blog: larryeducation.com