I live in a wonderful neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. For years, the local public school struggled. It had a poor reputation. Then a new principal arrived, attracted a stable and experienced staff, and the school flourished. Neighborhood families that once sought private school alternatives enrolled in the public school. It became the pride of the community.
A few years ago, when the city’s Department of Education started giving out letter grades to every public school, our neighborhood school got an A. Everyone was very proud. The mayor and the chancellor attended a ceremony at the school to salute its stellar performance and to announce the building of an addition.
But six weeks after the ceremony, the new letter grades were posted, and the neighborhood school got an F. Nothing had changed: Same principal, same staff, same program, mostly the same students.
The next year, the school’s grade went up, but the after-effect of the yo-yo grading left parents disillusioned–not with the school, which they knew and trusted, but with the city’s grading system. They realized that it was meaningless.
Now the latest report cards are out. They are as meaningless as ever. As Leonie Haimson, our city’s leading parent advocate puts it, “no one in his right mind should believe the school grades or the teacher growth scores.”
Some schools plummeted from A to F; others, including highly respected schools, fell to C. No one knows why.
The grades are based mainly on the same test scores that are being used to evaluate teachers. The whole enterprise stinks.