Mixed grades for school report cards

January 29, 2001 11:00 pm

School administrators were nonplussed by the last round of state report cards regardless of how their schools fared.

The reason: the State Department of Education doles out grades based in part on the schools past performance. So an exceptional class of students can cause a schools grade to spike and a year that by all other measures appears strong can earn the school a low rating if the school falls below its performance from a year prior.

For example, Baker Middle School posted 92.6 percent student attendance which earned them a satisfactory rating in student behavior.

The middle school held steady this pat year, posting 92.2 percent attendance a change statistically small enough to be caused by one or two students on a handful of days, but big enough to earn the school a low rating in this years student behavior category.

And Pine-Eagle School, where students scored above the state average in nearly every subject area tested by the state this year and last, rated only strong, not exceptional, because their test scores had improved only slightly.

Still, we see some value in the states effort.

While we favor local control of our schools, the states command of school-related data puts administrators and other educators on notice that their schools performance will be made public, statewide, on an annual basis.

That is pressure terrifying, no doubt, to those who would say good enough is good enough year after year after year.

To the professionals in our schools, however, the report cards are a promise that their good efforts will be recognized annually, and that their efforts to correct shortcomings will gain momentum by being thrust into the spotlight.

Pressure, yes. But wed suggest another word: accountability.

We expect our education professionals to be well aware of both their successes and their continuing challenges and to have plans in place or under development to address those challenges.

It may be a state-level program, but the report cards do serve local control of schools by casting light on those challenges and successes.

Because we should expect nothing less than excellence even if a quirk of the grading system labels that excellence as low.