One of the most destructive and disingenuous practices that the state of Florida has foisted on teachers across the state is the practice of grading schools. It was started by Jeb Bush’s administration in the early 2000’s. Today, Florida is a ‘pillar’ of the reform movement. Teachers across the country should understand what has happened here, because if you think our policies are not coming to a state near you with a quickness, you’d be wrong.
The concept of school grades is an accountability measure wrapped up in the idea that parents should know the ‘quality’ of the school their student is going to. So, what is quality? Well, certainly an A. B schools are also considered pretty good. What about C schools? Well, are they ‘average’? ‘OBVIOUSLY’ D and F schools are not any good, right?
There are so many factors that go into why schools perform as they do.
There are also many ways in which the state tweaks the formula to represent what they need it to so that they can continue their narrative.
Most of the schools that are ‘failing schools’ are in high poverty areas. This affirms the idea that students in poverty are incapable of academic excellence.
Property values in areas with failing schools go down, not up. Morale and school culture is decimated. Therefore continuing the vicious cycle that ‘this is the best we can do’. Everyone knows that an A is the ideal…but when your school has languished at a D or an F for years, an A seems pretty far off, so, you’ll get excited with a C. As if a C is the new A–because growth.
I think growth is important. But I’m tired of the implication that what we’re doing with kids is some how substandard. I’m starting to develop that Title 1 chip on my shoulder. The one that says, ‘Go on and imply that I’m not a good teacher, or that my kids can’t.’
But, just like the kids…teachers in these schools bear the mark of ‘failure’…and have to put their chins up, and keep going…even though professionally…even the state thinks we’re not good enough.
School grades affirm that schools in poverty can’t cut it without some form of ‘rescue’. Enter vouchers, choice, schools of hope, charters…etc.
This system is the perfect vehicle to usher us right into the idea that we need to privatize public education because in many places, teachers are failing kids.
I call….malarkey. *because I AM going to be on my best behavior for this post.*
The state gets to do the hokey pokey with the formula to suit their narrative and no one bats an eye.
When they gave us a test that was aligned better to Utah’s standards, and our computer based testing sites failed on many levels–enter the fuzzy math.
Grace extends to the top performing schools, but not really for the lower performing ones.
There’s even a little known rule that if your school slides two letter grades in a year, you will only have to go down one letter.
Lack of leadership, newer teachers, high turn over, not enough of the proper resources, too many programs and mandates are all factors of student success.
Yet, students performing on one high stakes test is the deal breaker.
Our standards have changed so many times in the last decade, it’s not even funny.
Teachers have to prepare and adjust to changes and spend all summer planning to adjust to the next fad or craze. The stressors for that go up exponentially when you are a teacher at a ‘failing school’. Every day you live with the knowledge that there is no margin for you. You are always ON. Your always teaching…monitoring…graphing…revising…pushing…calling…working. But your ‘label’ is failure.
Looking at schools within a district is now like a bad version of Match.com.
You can take one look at the grade and make 101 decisions about the teachers, the administrators, the kids and think you KNOW something about what goes on there. And of course when most of those schools are filled with ‘poor minority kids’… the discussions of ‘exposure’ come up next. What will MY child be ‘exposed’ to in a school like that? Maybe GROWTH? Maybe DIVERSITY? Maybe CHARACTER?
When the grading system is flawed, the only schools this system serves is schools of privilege. Period.
No one in a D or F school feels pride in that. No one feels like getting at tee shirt that says. “We made an F.”
In a struggling school, we have to be aware of literally EVERY student. We have to move EACH kid forward. We know how much we have to move them, and by when. Some of the best teachers in schools of privilege are teachers who came from tough Title 1 schools. If you look at the data on who some of the most successful teachers are in the state of Florida–they are teachers who work with the most at risk learners.
The pressure to perform to moveable measures is exhausting, and I think it’s a key factor in teacher burn out with our most at risk schools.
The state needs to step back from measures that double down on marginalizing EVERYONE that works with at risk kids.
Threatening to give our funding away…paying us based on performance data…setting up the idea that private schools can offer ‘hope’ where we can’t…NONE of that is going to get the work done in struggling schools.