Monday, August 05, 2013

Grades Do Matter

My daughter's Maryland school district changed its report cards last year--ostensibly to conform to the new Common Core standards.  No more A, B, or F. Instead, three nonjudgmental letters that make her third-grader's progress a mystery, along with something like 24 standards written in educationese. Teachers no longer may write their own comments.

So it is a brave statement that South Carolina is making to the world of education by assigning to its school districts letter grades that parents actually understand. Let's hear it for transparency!

"Teaching to the test" is a shibboleth that needs to be retired.  Do the questions test information and skills that are essential to becoming a high school graduate and well-informed citizen? If they don't, change the test. If they do, then test content should take top priority in the classroom.

Can a third-grader read at grade level? Can a seventh-grader tackle her math homework with a solid foundation gained in previous years? Can high school freshmen read their textbooks?

Parents need to know if schools perform these basic tasks. What does it matter if the dropout rate is zero if a quarter of those who graduate cannot function in society?

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