As many of you have read in the news lately, the Washington Policy Center has issued a series of A – F grades using our Achievement Index. For a number of reasons, the State Board opposes this approach. We testified against the bill in the state legislature, and we do not use A – F grades in our current Index framework. Board member Kris Mayer wrote a letter in opposition to this approach; it can be read here.
An Index, comprised mostly of test scores, is very useful as an initial evaluative screen. It helps us understand which schools are struggling, but not necessarily why. You can’t label a school or its staff a “failure” by merely looking at test scores in a spreadsheet. You need to understand something more about the school and why the data tells the story it does.
The Board sees meaningful accountability as a partnership with schools. The Index exists not just to rank and grade schools, but to effectuate change – in strategies, funding, and state school improvement supports. An Index that labels schools “failures” without having ever actually taken the time to learn about the school is sending the wrong message. In this case, the emphasis is on punishment, not improvement. Also, the initial label of “failure” becomes nearly impossible to overcome in developing a partnership with the school towards meaningful change.
The State Board will continue to utilize the Index to recognize excellence in our public schools through the Washington Achievement Awards, and as a valuable tool of analysis for all of Washington’s schools. We have never utilized an A – F grading system, and don’t plan to.