Bring on the school grades

Many parents don’t understand the gobbledygook bureaucrats use in evaluating the quality of schools. But they understand the A-to-F grading system perfectly. A means really good. F means unacceptably bad. Simple.

That’s why state officials are right to be implementing an A-to-F labeling system for schools. It will tell West Virginians how well their schools are performing.

State Board of Education members have heard quite a few complaints about the plan. One Kanawha County principal argued that areas served by F-rated schools will find it difficult to attract new businesses and residents.

Well, yes. But the implication is that we ought to cover up bad schools – in effect, lie about them – to attract job creators and new residents. That’s a lousy idea.

Granted, the A-to-F system may need some fine-tuning. One possibly valid complaint is that ratings will rely too heavily on standardized test scores. Lots of other factors should go into the mix.

Another concern is what state officials refer to as “cut scores.” What that boils down to is how grades will be scaled. For example, will standardized test score averages of 50 percent student proficiency be good enough for a C, a D, or only an F in the evaluation?

At the very first hint of grade inflation – that is, scaling evaluations intentionally to avoid handing out too many Ds and Fs, the system ought to be changed.

All of us like to think our schools are good. But if that isn’t really true, we’re doing a large percentage of our kids a terrible injustice. So bring on the A-to-F system – and let the chips fall where they may.

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Too often these days, people who mention “the media” do so with a snarl. They label us collectively as a threat to liberty, it seems sometimes.

Those folks never met West Virginia newspapermen like Bill Fouch, who ran the Grant County Press in Petersburg for decades.

Bill believed in informing and leading his community. But more than that, he was a true pillar of that community.

One example: For years, Bill raised money for needy children at Christmas time. He did so by dressing as Santa Claus, going up on the roof of his building – and not coming down, regardless of the weather in December, until he’d raised the amount of money he needed.

Bill died last week at age 71. I’ll miss him – but not nearly as much as Grant Countians will.

Mike Myer can be reached at mmyer@theintelligencer.net.