Accept grade as a call to arms to improve

It's the Arizona LEARNS program, and it uses a methodology to grade every public school in Arizona. Leave it to bureaucracy, of course, to come up with grade labels that do more to confuse than enlighten.

Nope, it couldn't be something so easily understood as A, B, C, D or F. Rather, Arizona schools are graded as being Underperforming, Maintaining, Improving or Excelling.

According to Arizona LEARNS, two Verde Valley public schools (excluding charters) are underperforming, seven are maintaining, four are improving and none are excelling.

If this was the report card for the academic standing of students in the Verde Valley, there would be an outrage. In the case of grading schools, however, school officials softened the blow of the impact before the report card got home by claiming the grading system was flawed.

There is truth to that claim. Arizona politicians and education bureaucrats agree that a system of determining school accountability needs to be established. They've gotten hung-up in trying to agree upon the means for measuring such accountability. In fact, they've changed the standards several times, leaving schools with no clue as to the teaching that is necessary for students to be able to pass the so-called "standardized" tests.

That's why school administrators were so quick to criticize the grading system before the fact. Some said the results don't mean anything because they know better; they know they do a good job. Some said the whole thing was a joke.

But, isn't that the same line we hear from students to rationalize a lousy grade on their report cards? Or, to soften the blow of the grade before the fact with assertions that the grading system is flawed or the teacher has a problem? There's a bit of irony in the fact that we have school leaders who complain about being graded when they "grade" students every day. Their very measuring stick of student accountability is based on a system of grading.

There may be problems with the methodology of Arizona LEARNS, but this definitely is a step in the right direction. The problems claimed by school administrators can be corrected.

In the meantime, let's hope school teachers, principals, superintendents and elected board members accept the grades they've received in the same manner they expect their students to accept theirs.

When you don't measure up, you buckle down, work hard and correct the problem.

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