By Wai Man Wang ‘15
Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced that a new grading system for schools will be debuting later this fall in her second policy speech. This new initiative will not only incorporate test scores into the grading system, but will also incorporate other factors that will give each school an accurate assessment.
The old system that was brought to light under Mayor Bloomberg in 2006 presented annual progress reports that were based on an A to F scale. According to the New York Times on 9/30/2014, the measures that were taken into account included student progress, school environment based on attendance rates, and improvement made by low scoring students. To give a score report based on only these measures are simply not enough, especially when, according to the New York Times on 9/30/2014, it is reported that 85 percent of the letter grade is based solely on test scores. The new system, however, according to http://www.wnyc.org, measures six different components including difficulty level of courses, school environment, collaborative teachers, school leadership, family engagement and trust.
“We are looking beyond test scores and focusing on making sure that each school has what it needs for sustained and continuous growth. And we have developed a framework that mirrors the essential elements we see in schools that continually improve,” said Chancellor Fariña in her speech according to The New York Times.
Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Fariña’s new grading system will depend on a more holistic approach that will accurately evaluate the schools. The new assessments that will be provided to the schools later this fall will have two forms. According to the New York Times on 9/30/2014, it will contain a School Quality Snapshot, which is for parents, and a School Quality Guide, which is designed for school leaders. This snapshot will rank schools from poor to excellent on a variety of questions that not only question the improvement of test scores, but also the level of the curriculum and the connection between the students and the staff. According to the Wall Street Journal on 10/1/2014, it will also include the responses from students, parents, and teachers on questions that relate to the overall wellness of the school. The new score reports will continue to rate the schools from poor to excellent on test scores on reading and math from specific categories of students, but it will only be one factor out of the entire report.
Some critics of the new grading system are concerned that the new grading system is too heavily focused on school practices instead of the actual outcome of the schools. Eric Nadelstern, a deputy chancellor under Mr. Bloomberg said, “It seems like the same strategies the system has tried for years, without any prospect we’ll see significantly different result,” in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
What some of these critics fail to realize, however, is that practices of each school will highly affect the outcome of student performance. These new grading systems will look upon improving the schools whose programs need help, which will eventually lead to better student performance. Moreover, according to wnyc.org, this is a system that was created under thousands of school professionals and parents, extending its credibility and authenticity.
Moreover, a letter grade is not sufficient enough to analyze the overall quality of the schools. For example, it is impossible to take into account all of the test scores of the students here in Midwood where there are over four thousand students. It is clear that not every school has the opportunity to perform as well as others when student to teacher ratios vary as well as the overall population and location of each school. With the new grading system, schools have equal opportunity to get a good quality report when measures such as diversity, school achievement programs and demographics are incorporated into score reports. Furthermore, it will not penalize schools that have a large number of disadvantaged students.
“The framework announced by Chancellor Fariña today is going to support schools and raise achievement,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in an interview with WNYC news. “It’s a coherent set of standards proven to lead to better educational outcome.”
Compared to the old grading systems of Mayor Bloomberg that assessed the schools ineffectually based on test scores, the new grading system created by Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña will be able to sufficiently assess schools by taking into account various measures. These new score system will provide students with better school leadership that will create programs to prepare students for college readiness in order to ready themselves for their futures.