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Columbia Missourian

WHAT OTHERS SAY: Give grading 'E' for effort

By Springfield News-Leader
February 16, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST

Just about every school kid cringes at the thought of getting a report card, and that is what many school districts are doing at the thought of each school getting graded like its students.

House Bill 388 would give each public and charter school in Missouri a grade on the same “A” to “F” scale students receive. Only this grade will not determine if the school has learned its math or science but where it ranks on significant data such as student-teacher ratios and dropout rates.

We believe the idea has merit and is worth considering, especially with a little tweaking to provide for a plus or minus with those grades.

It may be a simplistic system that doesn’t take into consideration all of the nuances of a school’s challenges, and it may be intimidating to a school that faces a low grade. But it is a starting point to make an otherwise complicated and complex ranking system understandable for the community.

The grade would be an easy way for parents to know more about the schools their students attend. It would help families decide where they want to live or if they should apply for a transfer for their children.

It also could make it clear to each school where it ranks and what it needs to do to improve.

Missouri PTA President Donna Petiford doesn’t like the idea. Neither does Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Norm Ridder. Both point out the weaknesses of such a basic grading system and worry about its impact on schools.

But the existing system, which Ridder noted is online for any parent to peruse, is complicated and hard to understand or navigate, and it ranks the entire district rather than each school. Parents need a straightforward, easy to grasp and easy to talk about method for understanding how an individual school ranks.

If the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is not willing to address those issues, this simple report card method appears to be the most logical answer.

The public wants a way to determine how its schools are performing. And when schools are not performing up to standard, the public wants to know why.

Just like a child’s grade on his report card doesn’t include an in-depth explanation of where the child is doing well and where he is falling behind, the school’s report card will provide a starting point to talk about how to boost that grade.

Copyright Springfield News-Leader. Reprinted with permission.