As far back as I can remember of my school days, getting an F was the end of the world. You were not just low on the totem pole–you were somewhere way down under it.
Of course I knew about As, Bs, Cs and Ds too. And I figured that an F was so bad that whoever came up with the grading system just plum skipped right over a grade of E. I mean, they wanted everyone to know that an F was in a category all by itself.
But in Alabama, thanks to the collective wisdom of our legislature and some of the wacky laws they pass, you can be labeled as “failing” even though your grade is higher than an F. And on the other hand, you can get an F and not be considered failing.
Of course it is ridiculous and makes no sense at all. But consider the source.
In 2013 we passed the Alabama Accountability Act that says each year we have to come up with a “failing” school list made up of the bottom six percent of all schools. This list was released in January and has 75 schools on it. And in 2012 we passed a bill saying that all schools should be given a letter grade of A-F. That list came out a couple of weeks ago.
Now my Auburn educated logic tells me that if you are a “failing” school, then you must have an F as a grade.
But not in Alabama. Not according to the 2012 law and the 2013 law.
For instance, Monroe County high school and Linden high school are both on the “failing’ school list. But they both got a C on the A-F report card. Say what? In fact, of the 75 schools on the failing list, less than one-half of them got an F.
Take Montgomery County school system for example. The one in the news so much these days. The one that is under state intervention. The same system that former state superintendent Mike Sentance used as his guinea pig for ideas that don’t work and money ill-spent.
According to the state, Montgomery had 11 failing schools. But according to the A=F list, they had 17 F schools. And nine of the F schools were not on the failing list–while three Montgomery high schools on the failing list did not get an F.
Confused? I don’t blame you. None of this makes any sensel. And people wonder why educators get stressed out these days. Is there a slight chance it is because of nonsense such as this?
We recently shared Fruithurst elementary principal Christy Hiett’s email to Rep. Terri Collins about the A-F school report card legislation that Collins sponsored in 2012. Christy grew up in the little Cleburne County community of Fruithurst, went to school there and has been there since she finished Auburn University.
One could easily say that she has the DNA of Fruithurst in her blood. Which accounts for her passion about both the school and community. So when her school received a C, she was not happy and wrote Collins to explain why the legislation makes no sense.
To her credit, Collins replied to principal Hiett. Here is her response:
I appreciate you taking time to write to me. I do hear your deep concern over the A-F Grading. I first want to share that the reasons behind the legislation were certainly not to degrade, but to improve student success for Alabama. The other states that have implemented the easy to understand grades have seen large gains in student success. The state of Florida was ranked in the bottom 10% of the country for student success and in less than 10 years after they began the grading, they moved to the top 10% for student achievement. That is my hope for our state.
The grading was discussed with many educators. I served on a Taskforce for 4 years and then another Taskforce for Accountability with the ESSA plan. The indicators that the law used matched the new requirements from the Federal Government.
I’ve read articles from all over the state regarding the A-F and what pleases me most is that the maid discussion is not blame or negative, but positive, proud of growth and success and an intentional focus on the areas of need. I truly believe this will be a positive step to moving our schools to better student achievement.
The Report Card will be used regardless of the testing. I do know the State Board voted to stop using ACT Aspire with no other test ready and that most Superintendents asked them not to change. Helping students be prepared for college and careers will always be important, no matter the test used to measure.
ESSA requires a “quality” indicator and the State Board decided to use Chronic Absenteeism. I personally am a proponent of “engagement” and have seen data that shows even one extracurricular activity makes a big difference in achievement, graduation and even reduces suicide rate. I believe the Department is considering using this indicator when it can be verified.
I do understand you don’t have any confidence in the Report Card. I also congratulate you on the Blue Ribbon and Banner School accomplishments! These show in your schools high achievement rate and that is very impressive. I know this first graded card is a prototype and the department wants to continue to improve the accuracy and quality of the indicators. I believe that as long as our state focuses on student success, we will continue to see gains and that is good news for our children.
However, Collins failed to persuade Christy and she sent her another email. Here is this response:
I appreciate your response to my concern about the A-F report cards. However, your argument in favor of these grades is not compelling and leaves far more questions than it gave me answers.
I call your attention to the article linked below. This is by Lindsay Wagner, a well-respected education writer in North Carolina. It is an excellent review of the A-F situation.
Here are sections that I found especially interesting:
Virginia moved toward adopting the A-F grading scale for its schools back in 2013, but now, after a near two-year delay in implementing it, there’s a bipartisan push moving through that state’s legislature to repeal the grading scale entirely.
In the birthplace of the A-F school grading system–Florida– the accountability measure’s creator, Jeb Bush, tweaked his own grading formula early on to set the state’s schools on a course for receiving higher grades. In many cases, these school grades have raised concerns and questions about how effectively they improve public education, how fair it is to punish schools that serve disadvantaged communities, and the potential for politicians to game the system for their own benefit.
As you should know, the Republican controlled legislature in Virginia did indeed repeal their A-F legislation.
Bush has said the A-F grading system has spurred Florida’s low-performing schools to do better to help their students improve. But, says Matt DiCarlo, an education policy expert at the Albert Shanker Institute, those school improvements Bush points to have largely resulted from the fact that his changes to the metric during the early 2000s equated to gaming the system, producing artificially higher numbers of schools receiving As in the years after the first grades were released.
Since then, the Florida system of school grades has reportedly been plagued with problems resulting from many more tweaks to the measurement formula. According to The Washington Post, Florida’s school superintendents association recently called for the dissolution of the A-F grading scale.
“The school grading system has changed multiple times over the past few years, including 34 changes in 2011-2012 alone. The culmination of these changes have had a significant impact on Florida’s accountability system and today many Floridians lack confidence in the assessments and school grades as a precise measure of a school’s performance,” the superintendents’ association notes in a legislative briefing.
This info definitely shoots a huge hole in your contention about how A-F has helped Florida schools. I find it interesting that you failed to note that the school superintendent’s association in Florida is opposed to A-F.
The title of the article “Do A-F school grades measure progress or punish the poor?” certainly hits home in Alabama.
Have you looked at the results of the new A-F report cards? Have you taken the time to honestly study these? I have and here’s what I found. Id you would, here’s is what you will find. There are 104 schools with an F. They have three things in common. 1. high poverty. 2. predominately African-American students. 3. Forgotten.
Of the 104 schools, 70 have a poverty rate of 70% or more. And 59 of the schools have a student body of 90% AA or more….another 30 are more than 70% AA. These are alarming statistics that have not been considered…
(Truth is, we have long known that high poverty is typically a great indicator of poor performance, except in the case of my school, Fruithurst Elementary School. We have always been high-poverty, yet high-performing, until this A-F Report Card came along..
But the most unconscionable aspect of this report card is that once we have identified F schools, we have nothing in the legislation to help them. Just grade them, degrade their existence, and let them be!
If the school nurse took the temperature of 200 of my students and found that 50 of them had a fever–but didn’t lift a finger to help them—that school nurse would more than likely lose his/her job immediately. Can you imagine that school nurse not contacting the parents of the children that had a fever? Me either…. Because that school nurse is held accountable to do her job.
Yet the bill you wrote in 2012 does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for the children of Alabama. The report card just tells schools they are terrible and then forgets them. This is the same thing the Alabama Accountability Act (which you also support) does. Do you honestly think this is helpful to education in Alabama? Frankly, I think this report card is one of the most morally corrupt things I have ever seen.
You speak of talking to educators. But did you talk to any BEFORE you introduced this bill? Where did you get the idea for this legislation? I don’t think anyone in Alabama thought it was a good idea. Finally, you said we are measuring chronic absenteeism at the direction of the state board of education. I contacted two members of this board and both said your statement is incorrect. Imagine that!
Since the summer of 2016, I have been extensively involved in research in my community have a cancer cluster. There were eight cases leukemia and lymphoma diagnosed within a very short period of time. The first four cases were young males. Last year we had a student that was home-bound because of his leukemia diagnosis and treatment. Sadly, he passed away.
As you might expect, cancer treatment is very harsh and time-consuming. Yet the new report card says my school is accountable because these kids are fighting for their lives. Chronic absenteeism isn’t always just because parents allow children to stay home. Do you consider this fair and right? I certainly don’t.. BUT the A-F report card only sees absenteeism as a black or white issue… never any gray.
You, and the other lawmakers who voted this A-F report card into existence totally missed the mark on what it takes to “improve student success for Alabama.”
I need some clarification on your following statement: “ESSA requires a ‘quality’ indicator and the State Board decided to use Chronic Absenteeism. I personally am a proponent of ‘engagement’ and have seen data that shows even one extracurricular activity makes a big difference in achievement, graduation and even reduces suicide rate. I believe the Department is considering using this indicator when it can be verified.”
- Are you stating that elementary schools need extracurricular activities to improve chronic absenteeism? If so, I can provide data for you that shows that “extracurricular” activities do not work in a high-poverty elementary school. I have tried that parents can’t come to school to pick children. Therefore, this solution isn’t a valid solution with high-poverty schools… the ones that received the lowest marks on the report card.
- Are you referring to only high schools for the extracurricular activities? If so, that solution doesn’t help me in elementary school.
- You state “engagement” and “extracurricular” in the same sentence… those are two different items within a school setting. Are you referencing “engagement” in the classroom or are you using the two terms interchangeably and/or simultaneously?
- Sadly, your solution of “engagement” and “extracurricular activity,” according to your statement in your email, “makes a big difference in achievement, graduation, and even reduces suicide rate,” but not chronic absenteeism, which is what your statement originally intended to support… I am confused by this statement from you.
- Knowing that you “think” the “Department,” (I am assuming you are referencing the State Department of Education), will use the “engagement” and/or “extracurricular activity” as an indicator “when it can be verified,” leaves me with more questions than you have provided answers…. How will that work for an elementary school, especially the ones of poverty that don’t have the same options as low-poverty schools? I just can’t wrap my mind around this being used as an indicator for the report card.
You state that you do understand that I have no confidence in the state report card, but you offer no solutions to this ridiculous bill. You also state, “I also congratulate you on the blue Ribbon and Banner School accomplishments! These show in your schools high achievement rate and that is very impressive.” BUT….. out of the other side of your mouth, you support the A-F Report card that says my school is AVERAGE! I may not be the smartest person in the world, BUT YOU JUST CONTRADICTED YOURSELF! And…. You just made a statement that proves the A-F Report Card is invalid, if you see my school as having “high achievement rate” and being “very impressive,” but yet you support a document that states the opposite! Wow!
Yes, public schools in Alabama need all the help they can get, but certainly not from lawmakers who have no clue about education. The A-F report card is definitely not the answer for Alabama. Which is why at least three local school boards have passed a resolution of “no confidence” in this process.
Again, I appreciate your response to my first email. I simply ask that in the future YOU consult with experienced Alabama educators before YOU introduce new education legislation.
Dr. Christy Hiett
Principal, Fruithurst Elementary School
Cleburne Cancer Concerns Organizer
Most of us learned about the parable of the good Samaritan some time during a Sunday school class. You remember the story: A traveler was beaten, stripped of his clothing and left on the side of the road. First a priest, then a Levite came along and neither stopped to give aid. Then came a Samaritan who did not hesitate to help the injured man.
Jesus told this parable when he was asked, “And who is my neighbor?”
Unfortunately when you read all the pages of the A-F legislation, you find that it is void of the spirit of the good Samaritan. A few days ago the state identified 104 schools in Alabama as F schools, at the direction of this law. But we are like the priest and the Levite because we offer no help to those in need.
No where do we say that these F schools will receive any kind of help or support in order to get better. Like the beaten traveler in the parable, these schools need assistance. But this law was not written by the good Samaritan. We just tell everyone they are struggling and go our merry way.
We love to pound our chest and crow about our “Alabama values.” But then we pass laws dealing with children and make a joke out of whatever “Alabama values” are.
And who goes to school in those marked with an F? For the most part, they are poor. Only ten of them have a poverty rate of less than 50 percent, while 70 have a rate of 70 percent or higher. Of course, we’ve known about the correlation between poverty and performance for many years. So all this new report card exercise did is tell us what we already knew.
It is also noteworthy to look at who attends these schools. The vast majority of students in F schools are African-American Three of the 104 are 100 percent minority. Fifty-six are more than 90 percent.. Another 30 are 70 to 89 percent. Only seven of the 104 do not have a majority of African-American students.
So we put a big F on schools that are largely poor and minority. And then we forget about them.
Frankly this is not only wrong, it is immoral in my book.
Fruithurst is one of those hamlets you have to look for to find. It’s on old U.S. 78 in Cleburne County just a few miles from the Georgia line. Christy Hiett grew up here, went to school here, and came back to teach after she graduated from Auburn University. I first met her in 2008 when we researched ten high-poverty, high performing rural schools. Today she is Dr. Christy Hiett.
It is truly an outstanding small school with 215 students in K-6. There are seven schools in the Cleburne County system, Fruithurst has the highest poverty level of any of them. Yet when you look at proficiency scores, their third, fifth and sixth grades are higher than Mountain Brook elementary, a school where no student is on a free-reduced lunch.
One of the things Christy points out below is that part of the A-F grade comes from improvement. But in 2013, the third and fifth grades were 100 percent proficient in math and fifth grade was 100 percent in reading. How do you grow when you are already 100 percent?
Dear Ms. Collins,
My name is Dr. Christy Hiett. I am the principal of Fruithurst Elementary School, in Cleburne County, Alabama. I have 22 years of experience in education, far more educational experience than the people in Montgomery that get to make bad decisions for education and our children in the State of Alabama.
I am writing to you today to express my concern over the A-F report card that the state of Alabama has adopted to publicly degrade schools across Alabama. I pray that my email doesn’t fall on deaf ears as I expect this to do, and as many educational items do in Montgomery.
I understand that the Alabama A-F report card is based on the following:
Academic achievement as measured by the scores in grades 3 through 8 and in grade 10 on the ACT Aspire from spring 2017,
How much student test scores have improved from one year to the next, i.e., from 3rd to 4th grade,
How many students graduated from high school in four years and in five years,
How many students earned indicators of college or career readiness, and
How many students miss 15 days of school or more, called a chronic absenteeism indicator.
I received my doctorate in School Improvement in 2015. The research was a tremendous process but the data that had to back up my research was even more extensive. In stating that, I feel that the A-F Report card would not have passed the grade in an actual doctoral program. It is completely invalid. The first fact in stating that the report card is invalid comes from the use of the ACT Aspire. The ACT Aspire has a limited degree of reliability AND it doesn’t even align with the Alabama State Standards. The U.S. Department of Education has even declared this! Ironically, that assessment isn’t being used in Alabama this year, so… that means that even the Alabama State Department of Education must have thought the assessment wasn’t what Alabama needed. YET, we still used that assessment to assign a letter grade to schools all across the state. It is extremely sad, that after a declaration of such from the U.S. Department of Education, that this A-F Report Card was still used. Someone at the state level just simply didn’t do the homework on this!
Another flaw with this report card is the aspect of using “improvement” to grade a school. When the ARMT was our state assessment, FES scored extremely high, higher than some schools in the Auburn School System and higher than a lot of low-poverty schools. That spoke volumes for the children of FES, which has an enrollment of 75% poverty. the majority of our children are of poverty level, but they didn’t show it on the ARMT state assessment! They are fully capable of learning and have proven that over and over again. I have attached a spreadsheet that shows FES compared to other schools in Alabama, other schools of a much lower poverty level! This information can be verified on the Alabama State Department of Education’s website. Sadly, I really feel that no one did the homework in this area either, or this would have been noticed for many schools across the state. I am also sharing a spreadsheet that compares Fruithurst Elementary School to schools in Lee County… take a look at that data, which again, can be validated on the Alabama State Department of Education’s website. Just to validate my statements even more, I have attached a spreadsheet that shows ARMT scores for FES for a total of 9 years! Data is important when assigning a grade to anything, but it should NOT be a sole indicator alone! With this information I want you to see that we didn’t have much room for improvement at FES. Therefore, we were punished with a Report Card score of “C,” we were deemed “Average.” Ironically, not too long ago, FES was deemed highly successful and awarded the awards I mention below by the State of Alabama AND the U.S. Department of Education…. not too shabby for just a plain old “average” school. Funny how many schools that received a score of “A” or “B” have NEVER received such awards, nor shown the success that Fruithurst Elementary School has in the past!
Adding one more piece of evidence to my argument (because I know how to successfully implement research), SCHOOLS CAN NOT CONTROL STUDENT ATTENDANCE! I have tried every way imaginable to increase attendance and it is NOT humanly possible! I have tried awards of all sorts and it does not work, and there is research to back that up. Alabama’s Truancy Law is so lax that schools don’t have anything to hold against the parent for chronic absenteeism. Students can miss as many days as they want as long as a parent sends an excuse. There is absolutely nothing I can do about that as an administrator. Therefore, that portion of the report card should fall on YOU and many others as lawmakers of our great state. Educators can only do what the law allows us to do, laws in which you all in Montgomery pass. Parents find loop-holes and use them on a regular basis. Short of going to homes and forcing children to come to school, I don’t have any other tricks in my hat! That indicator is up to you all as lawmakers.
Actually after looking at the 5 indicators for the A-F Report Card, elementary schools can only be graded on 3 of the 5. Knowing what I have stated above about the “improvement” aspect, the bogus use of the ACT Aspire, and how that educators have NO control over attendance….. your research is deemed invalid for Fruithurst Elementary School receiving a score of “C,” AVERAGE! You and the State Department of Education have nothing to use to score FES as “average,” absolutely NOTHING! Sadly, I could give you about a 60 page document, full of professional research, to discredit the use of the other A-F Report Card indicators assessing graduation rate and earning indicators of college and career readiness. I would be happy to share that with you if you actually would read it.
After doing some research it appears that the schools with the highest poverty have received the lowest score, including Fruithurst Elementary School, the school at which I am the administrator. Ironically, FES was a National Blue Ribbon School in 2010. We went to Washington D.C. to receive this award from the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. We were honored for having high-poverty, yet being a high-performing school. We have also been a State Torchbearer School for multiple years in the past. We were also part of a study with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and deemed as one of the top 10 rural schools in the state of Alabama. Nothing has changed at FES. Not so sure how we can be the top of the top in one instance and receive a grade of a “C,” which equates “Average,” by the State of Alabama in another instance. Honestly, the people at the state level in Montgomery are speaking out of both sides of their mouth with this report card issue. Doesn’t surprise me that this happens because the people who make decisions for education in the state of Alabama just simply don’t use the most valid resource that is readily available… THE EDUCATORS! Please seek the assistance of the professionals that teach children each and every day. STOP trying to make decisions about education by yourself, the State Board of Education has proven they aren’t capable of making decisions about education… and I could give you a mile-long list with that research!
I would love to see Cleburne County School System publicly state that we have no confidence in this state A-F report card as a system, because as an administrator that has 22 years of experience, this is the worst thing I have seen the State of Alabama do to education, and I seriously do not have confidence in this A-F report card system. This is the WORST thing I have seen in my 22 years of experience, well…. maybe besides Governor Bentley stating that education in Alabama “sucks,” and ironically…. he was the President of the State Board of Education and Governor when this law was passed in 2012, and I will add with this the decision to hire Michael Sentence as the State Superintendent of Education, but I could go on and on about horrible decisions that have been made for education in the State of Alabama.
Things must change in education for the State of Alabama… they just simply MUST. That change can not take place without research, and certainly not without the input of educators in this state. I am beginning to wonder if lawmakers are actually scared for Alabama educators to be part of such decision-making… WE would probably change things in education toward the positive and that would make all of these past bad decisions look even worse!
Maybe an A-F Report Card should be put into place for Alabama lawmakers…. wonder how well that would sit with you all in Montgomery? Maybe we could use indicators that you all have no control over… that seems pretty fair to me considering that is what has been done to schools across Alabama. Maybe such indicators could include the increase of drug use that causes my students to be absent. What about the increase of the amount of people in prison that forces my students into foster care, which can have tremendous emotional impacts on a child and causes school to be the least of his/her worries. One great idea would be for your A-F Report Card to be tied to chronic absenteeism for school students… you don’t have any more control of that than I do, but this seems seriously fair for your A-F Report Card! Another great idea would be to tie an indicator to your report card based on DHR cases for my students, maybe when DHR fails our students you get a bad score on your report card, something you have no control over either.
I hope you take at least one thing away from this email… I want you and all Alabama lawmakers to understand that YOU do not have all the answers for education by yourself. Trust in the great educators of this state to help you do what is needed for the children of Alabama!
Please feel free to contact me at work at 256-579-2232, on my cell 256-201-7762, or by the email address in this email, because there are multiple things I haven’t expressed in this email. I would love to talk to you or anyone else that was part of this A-F Report Card decision because I don’t want my complaint or the complaints of other educators to fall on deaf ears… we are just sick of that taking place.
Dr. Christy Hiett, Principal
Fruithurst Elementary School
How does it get any more “real” than this? But Rep. Collins has already shown she does not pay attention to educators. A blue-ribbon committee of educators from around the state worked with Collins for two years trying to develop an equitable A-F grading system. But they could not please her and finally abandoned this effort.
Sad, sad, sad commentary on what how we are treating public education.
A retired college professor friend has carefully reviewed the A-F school report cards mess and basically called it “worthless.” And this is someone who had minors in both research and statistics when she obtained her doctorate.
Take a look:
In research and statistics, the “conclusions” section of the research report answers questions such as this: “Okay, here are the numbers (or letters). Now what does that mean?” In the case of the A-F report card grades for schools, the assignment of that letter grade is supposed to mean the same thing that is customarily understood: A = Great; B = Good; C = Average; D = Fair; F = Poor. Yes, there are other descriptors that equally describe the A-F letter assignments; however, most people get the fact that D’s and F’s will get a kid in trouble at home, and, they are not something to brag about.
As far as the “implications/limitations” section of the research report is concerned, the researchers answer such questions as these: “Was our research sample of participants too small to be able to generalize the results beyond the sample that was used?” “What would limit the interpretation of the results?” For example, concerning the A-F report card grades for schools, “Was a limitation that this score (A-F) based upon valid and reliable data?” The answer that they would have to present is NO! Why? The A-F grades were based on ONE score; AND, the data collection itself was flawed because the instrument that was used (ACT Aspire) had no aspirations at all – in fact, it was removed by those who put it in place, and deemed to NOT be able to have any validity or reliability.
Put simply, the data collection instrument has to be demonstrated to be valid and reliable. Validity for the data collection instrument (ACT Aspire, for example), has to answer this question (among others): “Will this instrument accurately contain content that will allow us to collect data to answer our research question?” In the case of the A-F report card grades for schools, the research study falls flat with validity. They wanted to know and report how well our schools are doing. However, they used an instrument that had already been deemed to be flawed. And, that was ALL they used.
To demonstrate how ridiculous it is for our State Department of Education to do this, how would students and parents feel about this? An Algebra teacher gives ONE test during a grading period, and that’s the only grade used to determine the student’s report card grade. Well, that’s flawed in itself. Furthermore, the test that was given had been pulled from the textbook company because there were questions in the test that didn’t match the chapters they were supposed to represent (e.g. the content that was studied and taught). Additionally, the textbook company had pulled this test because there were questions that were so confusing, some answers that were supposed to be wrong actually could be right, depending on the alternate (and acceptable) interpretation of the flawed questions.
In determining reliability of the data collection information, one questions is: “Do we get the same realm of scores that we expect to get each time we administer this test?” For example, “Do schools that have traditionally demonstrated excellence in a variety of other ways, also have ‘excellent’ category ratings from the data collection measure we are using? If not, why?” Again, the assignment of the A-F report card grades fall flat.
In summary, if the A-F report card grade scenario were to be used as a university graduate school student project, the student’s committee would recommend a wider selection of data collection instruments. Furthermore, it would most surely disallow the ONE data collection instrument (the ACT Aspire) being used.
As a member of editorial publications in education, I can safely say that if this were to be a research study for publication, it would be rejected. In fact, the only reason it might ever be published is to demonstrate what NOT to do, as it is one of the examples of the worst kind of data collection and reporting one might ever read.
I completely reject these grades, not based on an emotional response due to my feelings of rejection resulting from this school or that school receiving a D or an F. That behavior would be as inaccurate and unprofessional as those who assigned these grades. In fact, due to the flawed nature of how the State Department of Education arrived at the letter grades, I am also unable to confidently celebrate with the schools that received an A.
Granted, some of this is pretty “deep” for a redneck from a south Alabama farm like me. But I can figure out what the professor is saying, which is “Not no–but Hell no.”
And the politicians who schemed this up still refuse to believe the truth.
Earlier this week the Marion County school board said “enough is enough” and voted “no confidence” in the state’s soon-to-be released A-F school report cards. (Since then, both the Eufaula city board and Chambers County board have done the same thing and others are set to follow.)
News of this action spread quickly throughout the education community and was overwhelmingly supported. Ryan Hollingsworth is superintendent of the Marion County school system and we interviewed him after the vote.
Educators seem very reluctant to take a public stand on many issues. Why did you do so in this case?
“Most educators spend all their time trying to meet the needs of their students in the classroom or on a school wide basis and stay ver4y busy. However, when I see a law or policy, such as this one, that is completely unfair and harmful to students and schools, I can’t help but speak out.”
Did you have any pushback from your board?
“Absolutely not. But I did get a few ‘amens’ after reading the resolution.”
What next? Do you let other superintendents know what you’ve done and encourage them to do the same? Try and generate media coverage? Share with the state school board? Let your local legislators know?
“The purpose was to inform the people in Marion County of our opinion of what was about to be released and the reasons behind our position. I understand many people across the state support us.”
Why do you think this A-F report card is bad?
“I don’t have enough time to give you all the reasons. But, essentially how can you boil down everything a school does and present that in one simple letter grade? How in the world does that inform the public about anything?
How will A-F benefit your school system and your decisions?
“Honestly, I can’t think of a single benefit.”
Does negative press harm your system?
“It harms everything about my community–not just the school.”
“We should repeal this law as other states have done.