Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Editorial from South Spencer [Indiana] Teacher

From an e-mail sent to me by the building rep:

Imagine this conversation took place between you and your school-age son or daughter:

“What happened in school today?”

“I got back my science test I took a couple of days ago.”

“How’d you do?”

“I got an 83.”

“Not bad. What grade is that? A ‘B’?”

“Not on this test. It’s a ‘D’.”

“A ‘D’? That’s not right, is it?”

“Our teacher isn’t grading us on how many questions we get right anymore. He’s grading us on how much we improve over our last test. I got an 82 on my last test so I didn’t improve very much and I got a ‘D’.”

“That’s ridiculous. You should be graded on how well you did. Did that happen to everyone?”

“Well, the boy that sits next to me got a ‘B’ on his test, but he only got half of the questions right.”

“How in the world did that happen?”

“On his last test, he only got 40 percent of the questions right. This time he got 50 percent right.”

“So he got a ‘B’ because he improved 10 percent while you got a ‘D’ because you improved only 1 percent.”


“That sounds absurd. Anything else go on today?”

“I didn’t pass a math quiz today.”

“Why not? You’re good in math. How many problems did you miss?”


“One? How many problems were there?”


“Let me see if I understand this. You got 16 problems right and missed one but didn’t pass the quiz?”

“Yes. Our teacher says we have to get them all right to pass.”

If this were your child, you’d be up in arms, I bet. Yet this is how Indiana schools are being graded. The number of students who pass the ISTEP test doesn’t matter anymore; it’s how much improvement the schools make over the last test battery.

A school where 50 percent of its students pass the test can receive a high grade if its overall improvement is high enough (and it should be recognized for that improvement). Conversely, a school that has 83 percent of its students pass the test can receive a low grade if its improvement isn’t high enough.

In addition, schools are judged on Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind system.

To meet AYP, schools must pass all 17 categories. Not passing one category means the school did not meet AYP.

I teach at Mount Vernon Junior High School. We have an outstanding school with many excellent teachers. Yet because of the grading system now in place, our school has been given a ‘D’.

In all, 83 percent of our students passed the ISTEP test but because our improvement was not high enough, we received the ‘D’. We also passed 16 out of 17 of the AYP categories but did not meet AYP.

When you read about the grades given to schools, take the time to examine all the data to find out how well a school really did.