Once upon a time, Jay Inslee gave his full endorsement of a school rating system that used an A-F school performance index. Every school—high school, middle school and elementary—would be evaluated and receive a grade based on test scores, graduation rates, college readiness and other factors. During his gubernatorial campaign, Inslee referred to the rating scheme as a “system of accountability” whereby parents would have the opportunity to take an active role in their children’s education—a popular prospect with Washingtonian voters.
Everything changed when Inslee became governor. Presented with a bill (SB-5328) by the State Senate, Inslee distanced himself from his campaign promise and opposed it. You see, while the public appreciates the prospect of an A-F school performance index, the state teachers union (WEA) does not. Like anything “meant to clearly convey school performance, increase accountability and spur parent involvement,” the WEA adamantly opposes the A-F index. It lamely cites “oversimplification” and points to the existing “achievement index that describes schools in adjective form.”
Ever following the WEA’s lead, the state House Democrat Caucus also come out against the A-F index. This week, it eagerly tweeted a “must read” blog post by the State Board of Education (SBE) in which our state’s “guardians of public education” lambast the Washington Policy Center (WPC) for releasing its own achievement index, giving schools an A-F grade, based on—ironically—SBE’s achievement index.
The State Board of Education currently rates schools in “adjective form.” Every public school receives one of six possible ratings: Exemplary, Very Good, Good, Fair, Underperforming and Lowest 5%. The WPC—following Inslee’s once-upon-a-time wish to change the rating system—merely converted the adjective ratings to A, B, C, D, F and F-.
The SBE explains that the current “adjective” rating system places emphasis on “improvement and recognition, not punishment.” Additionally, “labeling a school as failing… becomes nearly impossible to overcome in developing a partnership with the school towards meaningful change… A letter grade does not do justice to the complexity of school performance and increases the risk of alienation and demoralization with no potential gain.”
Sounds like a lot of thought given to how adults running a school—the administrators and teachers—feel and little to no thought about the paramount duty of providing children with a sound education.
Here’s an alternative perspective: Rather than fearing the “risk of alienation and demoralization” of grown adults, how about fearing whether or not children will grow up alienated and demoralized due to the poor level of education they are receiving. Parents—and school administrators—deserve a clear picture of where schools stand. Fluffy language serves no purpose in evaluations. A false sense of security does not prompt anyone to implement “meaningful change.” Rather, failure festers under the pre-tense of security.