Elevating the American Education Debate
Reducing the American education debate to absurdity
Educational policy discussions of late have taken a decidedly dichotomous turn: on-off; good-bad; pass-fail; left-right. The all-or-nothing conversations on how to develop a single comparable measure of the quality of American schools seem to have reached a pinnacle. A current favorite among policymakers in Indiana, where we both work, is a prime example: Schools receive a letter grade from the state: A to F. Failing schools get an F, and great schools get an A. But many Hoosier educators are deeply suspicious of these reductive grading methods.
And as we recently learned, even champions of this model weren’t convinced by the results. We are referring to Tony Bennett, the former state superintendent in Indiana (and later Florida), who allegedly worked with his staff to change the grading formula so that an Indianapolis charter school, started and funded by a wealthy political donor, would not be cast in an unfavorable light. By way of exoneration, the official report commissioned by the state indicated that the grade changes, applied consistently to all relevant schools, were “an attempt to save the credibility of the new accountability model.” But the fact that the changes made last fall came to light only after the Associated Press broke the story this summer leaves a bad taste in many mouths.
Sadly, Indiana’s adjusted grades are just one example of the problems that manifest when a highly complex social system is boiled down...
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