On Tuesday, the Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill that was originally intended to give letter grades to individual schools. The argument in favor of this is to give parents easily accessible information about how their school is doing.
The initial idea was to provide a single letter grade for the school, but that single letter grade was removed via an amendment. Mike Wood, associate executive director of government relations for the Missouri State Teachers Association, had this to say about the issue:
We support all the data being collected, which the bill calls for, but if your child comes home, he doesn’t get a grade for his whole school experience.
To this point I simply say . . . yes, he does. It is called a grade point average. Or, how about the A honor roll or the B honor roll? Any of these measures recognize a student for his or her overall performance, not for his or her performance in any single subject.
He gets a grade for everything, because in some areas he’s probably stronger than others. If a school does one thing very well and another thing not so well, is a letter grade going to reflect that?
Wood is missing the point of a single letter grade. The single letter grade is supposed to simplify the information so you can see how a school is doing overall. His argument is akin to saying we should not look at a baseball player’s batting average, because he may do well against fastballs, but not so well against curveballs.
While I agree that we need to look at a school’s performance from many different angles, I see a real benefit to providing an overall score for a school’s performance.