The absurd, silly, ridiculous school grades

See articles on this year’s elementary and middle school grades, or “progress reports”: Times, NY Post, Daily News, NY1, and this piece in Gotham schools (the best).

They are replete with examples of the absurd results, with schools such as PS 82 in the Bronx jumping from an “A” to an “F” and back this year to an “A”. PS 8 in Brooklyn which got an “F” last year and this year got an “A”, with the principal saying they did nothing different. The three schools that Klein tried to close last year to put charter schools in their place-- P.S. 194, 241 and 150 – all got “As”.

In fact, 84% of the schools got an “A” this year, and only two schools out of more than one thousand got “F”s. This is grade inflation that would put any human being other than Joel Klein to hide his head in shame.

And yet, according to the NY Times, “he clearly took pride in the results. “If you’re asking whether I would rather see less A’s,” he said, “the answer is no.”

Meanwhile, 87% of principals said in a recent survey that their schools were unable to provide a quality education because of excessive class sizes.

The absurdity of the grades this year derive from two profound flaws: First, 85% of the grade is based on one year’s gains or losses in test scores, which experts have found to be statistically unreliable and extremely erratic.

And two, the state tests have become so much easier and their scoring so lax that students can pass them without reading the questions – as long as they manage to fill in a few bubbles along the way. (For more on this scandal, well-reported everywhere except the Times, see the Daily News here and here, Gotham Schools and this NY Post column by Diane Ravitch.)

I wrote an oped for the Daily news about the new grading system when it was first announced in the fall of 2007: “Why parents & teachers should reject new school grades.” It starts out this way: “The new school grading system unveiled this week by Chancellor Joel Klein is a fiasco.”

But what do you expect when you had two guys in charge, Liebman and Klein, who are ignorant as to statistics, the unreliability of test scores, and even the larger goals of education?

Perhaps the best result is where we have now arrived: hopefully everyone realizes that the emperor has no clothes and they should ignore these silly grades, as they should have in the first place.

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