Accountability includes every aspect, not just a few

An editorial from The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — A good bit of dialogue has been started by the state’s release of school accountability report cards, which rate the schools in individual counties on an A to F system.

From the start of the process, some educators have complained of the ratings for fear that they would put an unfair stigma on those rated low. And unfortunately, we are seeing some of that.

It is important to realize that the grades are designed to give educators and the public an “objective view, or an honest picture, of how the schools are doing rather than a subjective idea,” said Kristin Anderson, communications officer with the state Department of Education.

Anderson also explained that a bell curve was used to determine the letter grades. What that means is that because there were no benchmarks established by precedent, the scoring format will only allow so many “A’s” so many “B’s” and so on.

And by design, the “bell curve” allows for fewer top grades and fewer bottom grades, with the majority in the middle. So in Harrison County, which has 23 schools, 12 received “C’s” with two “A’s” and five “B’s” and four “D’s.”

The curve is applied statewide, so some counties, like Marion, had more “A’s,” but overall the majority will score out in the average to slightly above average range.

That fact somewhat shades the first year’s grades and could be causing some undue concern for those lumped in that middle group. However, now that the benchmarks are established, that should enable schools to know what the targets are so that they can better prepare.

But we believe it is important to note that there are factors in play that extend past the educators, the schools and things that are controlled by the school system.

If you look at the scores closely, you will begin to see patterns that support some educators’ concerns. Some of the schools that are struggling the most are based in lower socio-economic areas compared to those that are high achievers.

The argument that environment is a major influence on the importance of education can’t be downplayed. But at the same time, it can’t be used as an excuse.

Underperforming schools shouldn’t be punished; they should be helped. And by no means, should they be held to ridicule.

We’re not talking about Friday night football and who wins and loses. In this game, under-performing is a loss for all of us.

We’re encouraged by the reactions from area superintendents and their staffs, as well as some of the educators and community members we’ve spoken with. They recognize the issues, and many already have action plans in place.

But we’re fooling ourselves if we think the burden of improving the education system falls on those educators or, for that matter, the bureaucrats and lawmakers in Charleston.

Quality education takes a community effort, a bonding of resources for the betterment of all, a concerted effort to lift those who are struggling and a willingness to listen and learn from all those involved.

School accountability isn’t just about the teachers and administrators; it’s about the students, parents, grandparents and concerned community members — all of whom need to step up to the challenge.

Failure is not an option. The future depends on it.

See more from The Exponent Telegram. 

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