NEITHER widespread criticism nor hiccups with the state's A-F grading system for public schools mean the state should abandon that system. Holding schools accountable for student performance, and by extension the state's significant investment in public education, is critical. The state should not retreat.
What the last few weeks have made obvious is that the system is still very much a work in progress. The best evidence of that came Friday, when state education officials announced they would delay Tuesday's scheduled release of the report cards until sometime next month. The delay was wise.
State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi said the state Education Department wants “100 percent accuracy” of the grades and that changes and corrections to the grades were frustrating. The level of frustration also has been high among school leaders throughout the state, who questioned the accuracy of the grades after they were changed as many as six times within days of their preliminary release to school districts.
School leaders aren't wrong to complain about the issues. High standards work both ways. As the state Education Department seeks accountability for schools, expecting state education officials to operate at a high level isn't unreasonable. Even reasonable mistakes become major issues with a system so new and so controversial, especially when they follow the challenges that accompanied student testing last spring.
A-F is experiencing some significant growing pains. That's been the case since it debuted last year. And until the new release of grades, the full impact of the adjustments ordered by the Legislature earlier this year is unknown.
Lawmakers, the state board of education and Education Department staffers need to look at concerns of the system and adjust it accordingly. More fine-tuning may be needed in the future — a sign of commitment to improvement rather than a sign of failure. Everyone wants grades that provide helpful information for parents and the community at large and spur efforts to better educate students. Those are noble aims that shouldn't be discounted amid political scuffles.
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