Performance ratings released last week on every school in North Carolina should be considered carefully.
As many educators were predicting, the scores in many cases were not good. There was a lot of pooh-pooing those results, which educators said failed to take sufficient notice of educational gains.
Numbers (or letter grades) are rarely valuable when considered in a vacuum. And, as the adage goes, you can make numbers say anything you want them to say.
We suspect Wake County school superintendent Jim Merrill could throw out a set of numbers that would make nearly every school in Wake County look like a public school version of Harvard University.
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Supporters of the new letter-grade system say it gives parents and other interested parties a simple way to judge the quality of a school.
We would argue that schools aren’t that simple. Measuring them through a few narrow parameters gives us just part of the story. Have the schools gotten progressively better? Worse? Are there other circumstances that impact a school’s performance that need to be addressed? We suspect in many cases that is true.
The lesson here, then, is to be skeptical when you consider any single set of numbers. We are better served by taking more of a 30,000-foot view of our schools and then making our own judgments about how weak or strong a particular school really is. The more data we have the more likely we are to get a true picture of academic success.
None of this is to say that our schools are as good as we would want them to be. Anyone who says there is no room for improvement is speaking with their heads buried in the sand. But we do believe there are a lot of bright minds trying to address those areas of need and as time moves on, we will see those improvements.
So consider the letter grades your local schools received. Then add that information with other data about those schools before we begin to paint with too broad a brush.