Assigning a school a grade increases pressure on teachers and students

Amidst mid-quarter deadlines and progress reports, the school will have another grade to worry about. With the administration and teachers worried about the letter assessing their progress and capability, students too will ultimately feel the pressure.

The “A-F scale” is intended to show the federal government the progress of the state schools in order to justify funding and and the decision to opt out of the national “No Child Left Behind” policy. This policy has already shown, on a national scale, imposing strict and uniform standards on a variety of schools has considerable negative consequences. It has been met with controversy and criticism in many states, and this issue is now making its way into Virginia.

The primary concern is the way in which a quantitative scale will be imposed on such a qualitative field as education. In order to be fair, all schools will need to be assessed on a uniform rubric and scale. Yet each school faces its own unique set of challenges and starts from a different point, and their progress must therefore be measured by a sliding scale. A single grade cannot possibly encompass the entirety of a school’s progress when there are so many individuals involved.

Another difficulty the school faces which will be compounded by the new policy is the alignment of state curriculum with the International Baccalaureate curriculum. On a regular basis, teachers and students struggle to decide on conversions between the IB rubric and FCPS grades. Often times the pursuit of the latter can force them to compromise their goals at IB standards. In recent years, as IB becomes more accepted and credited by American universities, the situation has improved and problems alleviated. The imposition of this new policy, however, will likely be a step backwards.

Governor Bob McDonnell is currently fielding criticism on the policy, as he should be. Although the intentions and goals of the policy may be solid on paper, the potential for errors when translated into practice is too high. Community members, school administration, teachers and students should ask questions in order to ensure their best interests are protected.

Regardless, it is most important we remember the true purpose of the education system.  Rather than succumbing to the blind pursuit of grades, we must pursue excellence, with the faith the grades will follow.