A reader in Florida saw that the school grades were phony, as noted in an earlier post. But no matter how many times the grades were shown to be meaningless, everyone accepted them, organized their schools to get them, changed their instruction to raise those grades. worked to get the bonuses, worked to avoid the sanctions, on and on.

And still the grades tell us which schools enroll poor kids and which kids don’t.

There is a lesson here. Something about adjusting to absurd demands and therefore making them seem reasonable.

But if you step back, they are still absurd.

Giving a school–a complex organization with many moving parts–a single letter grade is insulting, demeaning, and stupid. It is the product of people who know how to count but don’t care what they are counting.

Having spoken out against Florida’s school grades since they were detected by my ears so many years ago, I took my concern further and created non statistician produced data about their failures and circulated it. Sadly, these failures were buried just as professor’s findings that indicated the system was a bomb. I listened to comments such as well, you may not like it but Tallahassee does or appreciation of the money it brings to Florida’s poorly funded schools. Very few persons of power had much to say and those that did, seemed to embarassingly acknowledge that my concerns were valid.Occasionally, I would hear a reference from a board member which alluded to my concerns. I watched the paper for years try to educate the public as to the bogus nature of these farcical indicators. Mostly, I heard the empty boasts of nothngness ring on and on. I wondered why and I hypothesized that Donald Campbell’s Law was in action. After all, the state’s school grades are high stakes. Districts scramble to earn meaningless boasts and a bonus money flow. Districts scramble to avoid unfair sanctions. Gaming the system becomes a solution. Looking good became the goal rather than doing good. Children are pawns and parents provided information of a poor nature, This is called an accountability system. Although such a system is to be fair, valid, and reliable, Florida’s system is not and thus seems to be unfit for the terms of both A+ Plan and accountability system. We see a lack of reliability in the most interesting jump from 80 to 30 % in proficiency rates in the three grade levels tested being changed in the course of a phone call to be no longer 30% but near the 80% level after all.This change did not necessitate a change in answers thus the results had remained the same and the outcome oh so different..so much for reliability. (Certainly somethng seems amiss when the state allowed comparison of two different tests with variations in administration, weighting factors, scoring, and cutoff scores.) Skewing by SES reveals an unflattering picture on fairness and interferes with validity as well since instructional quality is not the indicator being measured.
Florida’s schools and students have always deserved better.