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Old 02-09-12, 01:54 AM   #1
Join Date: Jul 2010
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Default When is an 'A' not really an 'A'?

Tim Maestas

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The report issued by the state education department last month assigning a letter grade to each of New Mexico’s schools seemed relatively straightforward.

After all, the standard grading scale of 90-100 equaling a “A,” 80-89 equaling a “B,” 70-79 a “C,” and so on has been around for decades.

“I know what an ‘A’ means,” said Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera. “I know what a ‘B’ means. I know what a ‘C,’ I know what a ‘D,’ and an ‘F’ means.”

However, that is not the scale the education department used to rank New Mexico’s schools. Instead, the department evaluated the schools in a number of areas, including academic growth, attendance rates and graduation rates, then graded them on a curve.

In other words, while a total of 100 points was possible, the department gave “As” to the top 10 percent of schools in the state. That lowered the “A” mark from a 90 to a 75. Under the PED scale, a school that received a 50 rating got a “C.”

“That’s not fair,” said Jaclyn Jacobsen, a student at Sandia High School in Albuquerque. “Because if we get like a 59 or below, we get ‘Fs.’ ”

But Skandera said the state needed to set a benchmark, and grading on the curve was the best way to do it.

“Our bar is the top 10 percent,” Skandera said. “That’s how we’re measuring success. I think that’s an excellent starting point for asking, ‘How are we doing?’ And let’s benchmark against that and go forward and aspire that every single one of our schools is in the top 10 percent.”

The benchmark “A” provides the Public Education Department with a point to measure school progress in the future, she said. And the new scale is a much better way to measure schools than the pass-fail system set out by the No Child Left Behind Act, Skandera said.

“Last year we had 87 percent of our schools failing according to … No Child Left Behind,” she said. “I don’t believe 87 percent of our schools are failing.”

Under the new system, 73 of New Mexico’s 831 schools received “As,” but just four of those schools scored a 90 or above. Of the 260 schools that received “Cs,” only 19 of them actually would have received a passing grade when measured under the traditional scale.

News 13 asked parents at Marie Hughes Elementary School in Albuquerque – which received a 67.7, or a “B” – about the state’s new scale.

“They shouldn’t use a curve,” said James McDonald, one of the school’s parents. “They should be graded with just a flat grade.”

Jessi Allen, president of the elementary school’s parent-teacher organization, said that although the new grading system is confusing, she understood why the state graded on the curve.

“This was the very first time the grades came out,” Allen said. “And I would think they didn’t want everybody to just throw in the towel. I certainly would have been devastated if a 67 percent would have said that Marie Hughes was at a ‘D.’ ”

The January report is only preliminary. Skandera said part of the purpose of releasing the grades now was to recognize weaknesses and work out the kinks. However, the grading curve will once again be used in June when the official grade report is released, she said.

“We have a long way to go,” she said, “but it’s a great start.”
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Old 02-09-12, 02:33 AM   #2
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Hmm, so if I understand this correctly, they want to use the average of the schools in the top 10% to say what grade is equivalent to an A all the way down to F. Wouldn't this be problematic if suddenly the top 10% of schools made it so that the grade of A (which is supposed to be 90 to 100) can now be achieved with just 75 or even lower if their average worsens?

What I see here is the lowering of educational standards. Why would you lower the requirement for success if students are failing? What's the point in that? All it does is it sends a message to those students that says "Don't worry, even if you fail, the world will change to fit your needs!".

If this continues, I have a bad feeling that we'll just keep raising a generation of lazy and incompetent people. People wouldn't bother learning anything at all because "Hey, when I used to half-ass it, I got a C, now I'm an A student and all I do is Facebook all day!". The truly gifted people won't be distinguished and given proper merit. What will be the difference between a kid with a 130 IQ level compared to a kid who only gets lucky with multiple choice questions and draws troll faces on essay parts if all you see are big letter As on paper?

If people want to have a bright future, they shouldn't be afraid to face reality. So what if you're a failure of a student? If you don't want to stay as a failure, then go study some more and keep trying until you become good enough to reach excellence! You don't need to be a genius to know how to study well! Even repeaters eventually learn and graduate as long as they actually keep trying and do their part!

Lowering the standards just to make it seem like those with trouble are passing is actually harming the same people! They'll believe they are actually performing at the highest level, only for real life to kick their asses when they start looking for jobs that fit A-level students. They'll suddenly realize that the As that they earned were just fakes and they never really deserved to graduate just yet!

Education is not about what grades you'll see in your report card, it's about what you actually learned and how you developed mentally as a person, which would help you face challenges in real life situations! Your grades are just a representation of how you did under tough situations. Why do those projects have such short deadlines? It's because they want you to get used to situations like that in real life where deadlines are very important and no matter how soon it is, you'll always have to make sure your product is near perfect. Why do you need to solve all of those mathematical problems when you don't want to be a scientist? It's because they want you to get used to solving problems logically, using a step by step process until you get comfortable and unfazed by such tough problems. You study for the potential growth that you will gain through the experience, not simply to have a few letters to show off that will actually be pretty pointless if you don't know what you're doing.

Some people might get rich without graduating or studying, but then something compensates for their lack of education! These people might be very beautiful so it's easy for them to get into showbiz. Some might be athletic, so they just need to rely on their bodies to have a successful sports career. Some might have really special talents like in music or art. Not everyone is like them, these people are very rare so you can't expect to have easy lives like them.

The reality is, most of us aren't geniuses, warriors, or born superstars. Majority of us will have to really work hard in order to have a good life. Sometimes, even those who truly studied hard and graduated with honors are still having problems keeping a job in real life. Life is not easy, and even some of those rare talented people fail and end up with nowhere to go to because they never bothered with properly educating themselves. How much worse do you think can people who only barely pass exams can do? Those who were unfortunate to not have gone to school due to financial problems can also be successful through their own desire to succeed and determination to work really hard. These people, if they were given the chance to study at school would probably have Bs and As using the traditional grading system. This is because their attitude is about doing the best they can in order to improve themselves and not being satisfied with barely passing quality.

Just imagine the horrors of future employers and employees themselves!

Boss: So your school records indicate that you're a straight A student! I guess you'll fit in nicely with our team!

Student: Yes sir! I've been always at the top of the class!

Boss: Say, just to test you out, what would you do if your computer suddenly pops up a window telling you to pay for the software that would clean your system free of viruses.?

Student:I'll just laugh!

Boss: Why?

Student: No disrespect sir, but are you stupid? How can a computer get a virus, it's a non-living thing!

Boss: Damn you lowered educational standards, damn you!!!

Student: What?! Computers are now living things, too?! That's creepy!!! I quit this job!!!
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Old 02-09-12, 06:16 AM   #3

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10% only dang...
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Old 02-09-12, 06:34 AM   #4
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we do not know the criteria or the questions. we cannot make anything of this at all.

for instance "academic growth", is this the offering of new and innovative classes? is it the acquiring of more physical space? or is it the teachers all weigh over the norm? depending upon what it is measuring, for instance, new curriculum, then is it necessarily bad not to have "more" and it could in fact be good to concentrate, in some locations of NM, on the basics.

even attendance rates and graduation rates are subject to vast degrees of differences in the details. Especially in NM and places with a high rate of border traffic.

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Old 02-10-12, 12:22 AM   #5
Bad command or file name

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And let’s benchmark against that and go forward and aspire that every single one of our schools is in the top 10 percent.
Every single school in the top 10%? Sounds like someone got a fake 'C' in mathematics.
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