Opinion
Student Achievement Letter to the Editor

Choosing the Wrong Factor in Defining ‘Failing Schools’

August 20, 2010 1 min read

To the Editor:

Let’s transform the definition of a “failing school.” If the primary function of a school is to create appropriate learning gains over time in its student body, then let’s pinpoint schools where that does not happen, rather than those where large numbers of poor children attend.

The use of a static achievement measure when determining which schools are “failing” may skew the results because of students’ socioeconomic status. While “proficiency” may be of interest, and desired by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, it is poorly situated in an equation that results in evaluative actions. Why should a school that moves its students a mile but doesn’t reach “proficiency” be called failing, while a school serving gifted students that allows them to stagnate be deemed a success?

Perhaps we pinpoint the wrong schools, and sometimes apply draconian measures, when we use a failing definition of “failing schools.” Certainly all students should learn in school, but the methodology to measure such learning should not be influenced by families’ bank accounts. It is past time to stop failing our students and schools.

Diane Hanfmann
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

A version of this article appeared in the August 25, 2010 edition of Education Week as Choosing the Wrong Factor in Defining ‘Failing Schools’

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