State School Superintendent Brad Bryant hopes to develop a grading system so schools across the state can be evaluated on performance.
This is like the fellow who says, "Let's have one more round and I'll tell the wife the game went to extra innings." It sounds like a good plan but it is fraught with peril.
There is nothing wrong with the idea of creating a performance standard by which to judge school systems. Teachers, parents and students need to know how their school stacks up with the rest of the state. But there are two major difficulties to overcome.
The first is to develop an evaluation based on a legitimate process. This is no small thing.
There are so many factors in evaluating a school, so many variables determining success and failure that creating a one-size-fits-all program would invalidate the process.
Establishing a performance model which fairly examines the achievement of a school will be a monumental undertaking.
It is not enough to examine progress on basic skills, math and science. There must be merit given to schools with programs turning out the next generation’s Robert Shaw or Tennessee Williams.
It must be a comprehensive evaluation, one that takes in the entire educational process and not be based on how many people graduate or if the average score increased on some standardized test.
If an evaluation of the state's schools turns into a statistical analysis of success and failure, Georgia will be home to the greatest statisticians in the world. They will produce reports clearly indicating Georgia is leading the way in public education, plus or minus the margin of error, but students will see little improvement.
The second difficulty will be to make certain the evaluation is fair and honest. This seems like something that should happen as a matter of course but given the recent cheating scandal in the Atlanta school system there is no reason to think chicanery could not happen.
I suspect if someone feels they have to cheat to save a job, the results of the evaluation will be graded not on a curve but a circle.
This means someone has to be evaluating the evaluators. There must be accountability and oversight throughout the process or they might as well do evaluations by throwing darts.
And there is one other item that might be cause for concern. The folks who have been at the top of the education food chain in Georgia for the last 100 years or so haven’t exactly inspired great confidence. In fact, some of these leaders of education don’t seem to have the smarts to put one foot in front of the other.
For a system of evaluation to be effective and produce results which can be analyzed and then acted upon to improve education calls for people of vision who are creative and can provide leadership.
They must be above self-aggrandizement and dedicated to the task of improving Georgia’s education because it must be done, not in hopes of landing a better job.
We can keep our fingers crossed this will work, but don’t hold your breath.
Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at Rlatarski@aol.com.