Dear Commons Community,
The New York City Department of Education issued grades on its schools yesterday. However, unlike previous years when educators, parents, and the news media frenzied over them, there was a much more subdued tone mainly because Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has vowed to do away with the school grading system. As reported in the New York Times:
“On Wednesday, the Bloomberg administration released its last batch of grades for more than 1,600 public schools. Across the city, 63 percent of schools received A’s and B’s, and there were signs that schools were better preparing students for college.
But the announcement came with a sense of acquiescence, as Mr. Bloomberg, who staked his legacy on taking control of education in the city, prepares to hand over the school system to Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, an ardent critic of the mayor’s policies who has pledged to do away with the letter grades.
Mr. Bloomberg on Wednesday emphasized the system’s value for parents. “Getting it down to something that they can use, I think, is not making it too simplistic but, quite the contrary, I think it’s making it useful,” he said at an unrelated news conference, according to WNYC.
Mr. de Blasio has denounced the letter grades, which were introduced in 2007, as blunt instruments that do not convey a nuanced portrait of a school’s strengths and weaknesses.
Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio, said on Wednesday that letter grades offered “little real insight to parents and are not a reliable indicator of how schools are actually performing.”
Mr. de Blasio has said he would continue to make available the detailed report cards that accompany the letter grades given to schools each year, though he would convene a panel of parents and educators to determine whether they should continue in the long run.”
The article summed up the view of many educators and parents as follows:
“The reaction to Mr. Bloomberg’s final report cards was mixed. Some educators welcomed what they saw as the end of an era, while others said they thought it was important that the city not lose its focus on measuring results.
Elizabeth Phillips, principal of Public School 321, an elementary school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, said the school had always earned a grade of A or B. But she said the grades were “completely meaningless.”
“They fluctuate dramatically, from year to year, even when there are no significant changes in the instruction, or the leadership or the teaching staff,” said Ms. Phillips, who has led the school for 15 years.
At Public School 3, an elementary school in the West Village, parents were optimistic about how Mr. de Blasio could change the grading system. The school received an A this year, after earning C’s the two years prior.
“It does not paint the entire picture of any school,” Dana Abraham, a co-president of the school’s PTA, said.”
Assessment when done well can be meaningful for improving schools and education. There are some good elements in the present system but the way the grades were used as a pillorying of public education left a lot to be desired.