Release of the A-F grading system on Oklahoma schools provides data relating to standardized test results but leaves some glaring omissions. These grades erroneously assume that all schools face the same degree of difficulty. The attitude of students and their parents toward education is probably the most important factor for achieving success, yet the ratings are silent on that subject. These characteristics can be measured. The character of students and school environment can be determined by the ratio of documented discipline cases, detentions, expulsions and tardiness. The support provided by parents is shown by their attendance at PTA meetings and volunteering.
Ignoring these factors gives students and parents a free pass and makes teachers solely responsible for forcing an education on those who aren't interested and don't care. The grading system doesn't recognize improvement. One school increased the number of students achieving proficiency by 13 percent yet got an F because the statewide objectives weren't reached by the school.
We've got it backward. Rather than criticizing schools for poor performance, we should be encouraging those teachers willing to work at locations where they must overcome the most difficult obstacles. Or at least revise the grading system to recognize that not all schools have the same challenges. There should be incentives for recruiting and retaining the very best teachers at troubled schools. Perhaps we should follow the example of the military and reward those who face the toughest situations with additional hazardous duty pay.
Bill Walker, Yukon