Thursday, March 23, 2017

Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder

The old adage suggesting that it is up to the observer to decide on what is “beautiful” or not certainly seems to have some merit and consideration when discussing the proposed A-F grading system scheduled to go into effect in Texas public schools beginning with the 2017-2018 school year.  Even those most strongly opposed to a letter grading system agree that it is important that we evaluate student outcomes and progress toward meeting goals that are increasing in difficulty.  How we get there is a key discussion topic.

While I don’t personally believe that moving to an A-F grading system where there are winners and losers makes sense (I don’t subscribe to the theory that grades will not be assigned on a traditional bell curve), I do believe that the public education system should be held accountable for performance and results.  But who decides what is acceptable or not?  I guess this is where the beauty consideration comes into play.

Those who support privatization or a dismantling of our public education system are generally those most in favor of an A-F grading system.  They also are the ones who stand to gain the most given recent efforts by some states and what appears to be a strong effort by the Trump administration to increase funding for so-called school choice, while reducing funding for certain programs in public education.  Their interest, as well as those of legislators who favor school choice without accountability, is focused solely on what they stand to gain.  Lost in all of this are the children, some in struggling schools, whose needs should be a driver for decisions being made by legislators.

And this is where “beauty” again comes to the forefront.  If you ask children in our schools about their attitudes toward school choice, most likely don’t have an opinion; they simply want an education that enables them to succeed and achieve their personal goals.  Yet they have somewhat become pawns in the discussion about public education.  To them, beauty is not about public v private but it is about the quality of the education they receive.

And what about community members and other stakeholders in communities served by our local schools?  They certainly have a perspective on the quality of education, the “beauty” of the experience for their children.  Studies have consistently shown that the closer one gets to the local campus (as opposed to a state or nationwide perspective), the better the stakeholders feel about what goes on on that campus.  Parents and community members do not need an arbitrary letter grade, one that today would be largely tied to STAAR test results, to feel good about the beauty of our public education system. 

In the end, regardless of the perspective we have on public education and how we perceive the beauty of a system that has fueled economic and personal growth, what should be important is not how we view beauty but how our students are served.  We can only achieve this success if we continue to make education a priority in the classroom.

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