Indiana’s recent school-grading controversy has led some to question the wisdom of ranking public schools on an A-to-F scale. Fifteen states do so, and several, including Indiana, use those grades to make decisions about school funding. Charter school advocate Nina Rees defends the A-to-F system:
In this era where we can go online and get rankings of hotels, restaurants, doctors and dog walkers, offering some sort of easy-to-understand metric for a school’s performance shouldn’t be counter-intuitive. Wouldn’t most parents rather have state education officials offer this information and explain its meaning than to have to rely on a real estate agent or next door neighbor to figure out whether a school is good or bad? … And giving parents an easy way to understand how schools are doing is critical; an A-to-F grading scale is something we are all familiar with and understand.
But edublogger RiShawn Biddle thinks the framework isn’t helpful:
It’s seductively simple. … But it doesn’t provide families the information they need to be able to make decisions. If you’re a parent, you want to know growth over time. Are they providing AP courses? How are they doing in algebra? If you’ve got young black sons, you want to know: Can this school serve your son well? You can’t get that from a letter grade.
Diane Ravitch agrees:
No state has gotten it right because it is too simplistic to label a complex institution with a single letter grade. There are too many variables, too many moving parts, too many different components that make up a school to say that it can be rated like a tomato or a pumpkin.
Meanwhile, accountability advocate Michael Petrilli says reformers are open to new ideas:
When you get results back and they don’t match up with reality, you’ve got a problem. I think there’s going to be a good conversation about whether boiling it all down to a single grade makes sense.
But Education Week‘s Andrew Ujifusa says changes won’t come overnight, if at all:
[L]awmakers might be able to confine the story in their minds to one misguided (or worse) individual. In that case, they may not be willing to roll back what they’ve done in their states because of the publicized actions of one man in one state. Organizations like the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which lobbies for states to adopt A-F accountability and had close links with Bennett, might at least in theory be just as willing to defend existing A-F systems in states, if they come under serious political attack. The subsequent question is, just how effective would such lobbying be?