If you recently bought a new car and found that only five of the six cylinders were firing you’d take it in to the dealer to be fixed. If the service manager told you that, according to new automotive standards, five out of six cylinders are within the margin of error for adequate performance, you’d be upset.
Wait, that’s too close to real life.
How about you just bought a new watch but it refused to keep accurate time. You take it back to the store and the clerk tells you that plus or minus five minutes is an acceptable range. You reply it’s fine for a sundial but not for a watch you just purchased. But the clerk refuses to listen and keeps repeating that chronology experts believe obsession on the exact time causes stress and anxiety.
Now you know how parents in Montgomery County feel. MoCo, as it’s known, is a suburb of Washington, D.C., located in the People’s Republic of Maryland. It’s a very upscale area and an expensive place to live. But it’s supposed to be worth it, because government officials tell you the school system is great!
Unfortunately, test scores have been eroding and some are worried about the gap in achievement between student groups. There are two ways to approach this problem: Improve teaching or change the scale of measurement.
Naturally, MoCo educrats choose to change the scale.
Now instead of getting letter grades on their report cards, which the U.S. has been using for over 150 years, MoCo kids receive “ES” for exceptional work, “P” for proficient, “I” for in-progress and “N” for no progress.
So in one fell swoop students have gone from an objective measure of achievement — A, B, C, D, and F — to entirely subjective measure that can differ from classroom to classroom and teacher to teacher.
Naturally educrats defend the system, according to the Washington Post, by claiming “their standards-based grading system provides a more detailed picture of student performance.”
Donna St. George writes of 10-year-old Max Krauze as he looked at his report card, “Max lost interest quickly. Most of his grades were “P” — for proficient. By his count, he had 73 P’s spread across his four marking periods. “P is the only thing you get,” he said, noting just a handful of higher grades as he offered the report card to his mother. ‘What does that tell me about him?’ she asked. ‘What does that mean? He’s anywhere from average to excellent in a bunch of subjects.’”
Like the five out of six automobile engine, MoCo’s new grading scale has plenty of room for error. The “P” is “sometimes given for work that could represent a 75 percent, 85 percent, or 95 percent performance.”
Of course Niki Hazel, educrat in charge of the change, thinks it’s the breakthrough for which American education has been searching, “To me, it provides a lot more clarity,” Hazel said. She said the report cards are designed to give more information to parents across content areas and create more consistency from teacher to teacher and school to school about how students are graded.”
But what the new system actually does is impose “grading justice.” Many more children are lumped into the vast pool of “Ps” making it harder to stand out and putting the student at the mercy of the teacher’s perceptions of his progress. The school system gets to dodge criticism for “disparities in learning” and all the students are above average. It’s the soccer motto of “everyone gets a trophy” imposed on academics.
The moral to both stories is when anyone starts changing a standard of measure that’s worked for decades, particularly when that anyone is the government, it’s time to get very suspicious. And in MoCo, time to start looking for a charter school that still stresses the ABCs on report cards.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan. He is president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation and chairman of the League of American Voters. Mike is an in-demand speaker with Premiere. Read more reports from Michael Reagan — Go Here Now.