School Grading: The Cavalry for Poorer Schools

Dan Liljenquist, my dear friend and former Senate colleague, wrote an excellent editorial on the impact of Sen. President Wayne Niederhauser’s school-grading legislation.

Commenting on Dan’s editorial, someone wrote, “Dan, you know very well that schools like Davis High with a high professional, upper socio-economic demographic are going to get an “A” and schools serving a less-educated, lower socio-economic community are going to get a “D.” That’s a given. It’s just one more excuse for the privileged to break one arm patting themselves on the back while using the other hand to point with alarm at those dumb poor people.”

Bingo!!! “It’s a given!” Schools with richer families perform better. We’ve known that forever, and we haven’t done much to change it. In fact, we often exacerbate the problem by moving our best administrators, teachers, and programs to those easier schools and drifting our newer or struggling administrators and teachers and our less-desirable programs to tougher schools. (My Spring Branch High friends will recall that Memorial got a Latin program and we got the pregnant girls and the “Special Assignment Center” for the hard-core delinquents. The same was true for Westchester v. Spring Woods and Stratford v. Northbrook. The educational experience at the rich schools on the south side of I-10 was much different than the experience at those on the north side. My Washington County constituents can readily see the disparity in the performance of our elementary schools. This is true in Texas, Utah and everywhere in the U.S.. As the commenter to Dan’s editorial says, “It’s a given.”).

So, instead of worrying about the meaningless cheerleading aspect of “the privileged [breaking their] arm patting themselves on the back,” why not work to eliminate the disparity?

A likely way to change the disparity is to shine a bright, bright light on it. If people squirm, shine the light that much brighter. Until it changes! By grading the performance of our schools, A through F, we will have a readily-identifiable way of highlighting that richer schools are getting resources, talent and programs that should be going to poorer schools. It is not a coincidence that the biggest opponents to President Niederhauser’s bill mostly represent the richest schools in Utah. “Those dumb poor people,” as the commenter puts it, aren’t dumb; they are poor. They need an equal shake, so that they can stop being poor.

Our discussion

  1. Ryan Reeves said

    A sliding grading scale is never going to be valid. Each year the “standard” for proficiency on the state end-of-level tests changes to keep the number of students proficiency at an acceptable level. This is one of the reasons the state can point to “evidence” that 70% of its students ARE proficient in math, while colleges/universities report 70% of students ARE NOT prepared for college-level math. With the new national core and the new assessments, this is the perfect time to implement standards-based assessments and scoring.

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