So far, Arizona school graders merit a D with wacky drama - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

So far, Arizona school graders merit a D with wacky drama

November 8th, 2017 development
So far, Arizona school graders merit a D with wacky drama

By PAUL MARYNIAK, Tribune Executive Editor

Let’s suppose you were waiting for a copy of your job evaluation. You were pretty confident it would be a good one, maybe already spending in your mind the bonus or raise that you knew would follow.

The long-awaited copy arrives and with each word, your dismay turns to shock.

It was tepid at best.

Then your boss walks in and tells you, “Don’t worry. We’re changing the benchmarks we used in your evaluation. You’ll get another one in a few months.”

No raise. No bonus. No real certainty about anything.

Sound disturbing? Well, if you have kids or are related to kids attending a public or a charter school in Arizona, you, they and the people charged with educating them are in that nightmare right now.

If you’ve been following the unfolding whacky drama surrounding the return of Arizona’s first letter grades for schools in a couple of years – and you should be – you already know about that nightmare.

The state Board of Education released letter grades despite its members’ own concern that the formula used to generate them might be more than a little unfair and way too complex.

The tape of the board’s Sept. 6 meeting – which you can search and find on – is all the evidence you need.

Kyrene Superintendent Jan Vesely and Susie Ostmeyer, her chief information and accountability officer, laid out the inherent unfairness in the complicated formula, noting it actually penalized schools doing exceptionally well.

At least five of the 11 board members, including Chairman Tim Carter, voiced concerns about the revelations and debated whether a delay might be in order.

Carter, the superintendent of Yavapai County schools, wasn’t just taking Kyrene’s word for it. He admitted that he had attended a number of meetings with rural school superintendents who voiced the same concerns.

But then Carter said the board would press on anyway and vote on the new system three weeks later – which it did.

And in pushing aside concerns about the formula, he explained the real reason for the rush: He was under pressure from the governor and the Legislature.

Now the Board of Education has voted to re-examine the formula. It is appointing a whole different set of people to review the formula from the ones who came up with it in the first place.

Its action came after public hearings that were given little publicity, were set up hastily and that were held in the daytime during the week, when most parents presumably are working.

In the meantime, no one seems to be giving much attention to state Superintendent of Public Schools Diane Douglas’ assertion that letter grades don’t say much about a school anyway because they are largely based on one test.

She has suggested a report card, one that gives a more thorough analysis to the wide variety of tasks any school or district must fulfill in order to educate your kids properly and prepare them for a world that is rapidly changing.

Mainly, she’s being ignored because the governor and Legislature don’t want it. They want a simple grade.

So, ask yourself what you would do if your child came home with a report card that had just one letter for all the different things he or she must accomplish in order to be successful in school.

You wouldn’t know how they’re doing in any given subject. You wouldn’t know how they behave in class and related to their peers, teachers and staff.

You wouldn’t even necessarily know how that grade was determined in the first place.

And by the time the board adopts a new system, you still might not know much.

Kids, teachers and school administrators deserve some better yardstick than what is being served up right now.

Come to think of it, so do parents and caregivers.

And yes, taxpayers, too.