Contributor: John Doughney, longtime former GCISD empoyee
A few years ago, I wrote a blog entitled “What’s in a Grade?”. In it, I described the journey of GCISD from being the largest school district receiving an exemplary rating to the current A-F system of accountability.
The latest ratings have been published, and GCISD earned an A!!! First and foremost, I want to commend the hard work of teachers, administrators, and instructional support personnel. Although the new board will want to take credit for the improvements, they had absolutely nothing to do with this success. It was all due to the dedicated work of those who faced the incredible challenges of public education during a pandemic.
But let us not be fooled by the misguided use of standardized test scores and arbitrary averaging of random measures to label districts and campuses with a letter grade. Ask yourself the following questions:
• What does the grade mean? What really does it tell me? What doesn’t it tell me?
• Why do we need a capricious system designed to order kids to tell us how good we are as a district?
• What happens next year when the stakes are higher, GCISD has more students who historically don’t perform well on standardized tests, and teachers’ support networks have been dismantled?
• How will we feel if the grade is B? Does this mean as a district we are doing worse with our kids, or are we just not spending enough time preparing kids to take a test?
My intent is not to rain on anyone’s parade. I have already personally congratulated principals throughout the district. Here’s the double-edged sword. If we celebrate the As and Bs received, we are, in turn, complicit with the state’s accountability system. If we do not celebrate, we appear to disregard the hard work of educators. I believe we should celebrate not the grade, but the incredible work accomplished over the past two years by the people in GCISD.
Let us not be hoodwinked into believing the A-F system is a rational and reliable system of accountability. IT IS NOT! Let us not get too excited about a grade that has little meaning. We already knew this district was great. We don’t need a system developed by people who never set foot in a school to tell us that. And in a year, we do not need these same people telling us we are potentially less good than we currently are! This is not a valid accounting of GCISD. GCISD is so much more than what this measures. Visit classrooms, and you will discover so much more than what this arbitrary grade tells us.
Getting an A gives us bragging rights, but wouldn’t we really rather want to know what we have to brag about – and how we need to improve?
Do we want to be accountable to the state for test scores or to the community for student benefit?