The human side of state report cards


David Lindeman - Contributing Columnist



The State Board of Education released its report card on public schools last week, causing howls of indignation from almost everywhere.

For the next few weeks, we’ll hear the excuses: “My dog ate my curriculum;” “The state board of education is a bully;” “Oakwood is the teacher’s pet;” “They should have graded on the curve.”

I have to admit I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. Mind you, I’m not a vengeful kind of guy, but the little kid in me finds an odd kind of pleasure in knowing that teachers, principals and superintendents around the state live in fear of the day when the report card is issued. It’s the same thing they’ve been doing to students for generations!

How many of us can remember that feeling of anxiety that came with grade cards? Is she going to give me an “A” or a “B” – or a “C” or a “D?” All the around the state, school officials now feel that same anxiety. Justice prevails!

On the other hand, I’m not sure the grades serve any purpose other than to give a bunch of bureaucrats in Columbus something to do and make state legislators feel important. They hardly need any more encouragement.

There are a couple things wrong with the grades. First of all, they really don’t measure how well teachers are performing. The grades generally follow economic patterns. Around here, places like Oakwood, Minster and Bellbrook got A’s. They all fall into the category of schools that benefit from the grading scale — strong economics, smaller size. This is a credit to their communities, but truthfully their teachers have a much smaller challenge than teachers in school districts with other demographics.

Plus, the whole public spectacle of the thing seems counterproductive. When districts do poorly, the state puts a dunce cap on them and makes them stand in front of the class. I guess the idea is the residents of the school district will put pressure on the schools to change. It also can cause people to just give up or move out. I’m not sure that fear is the best motivator in the long run.

So I got to thinking – what if school districts were students? How would the other kids look at them? Here’s a short list with grades and what some of the districts would look like if they were human.

• Troy. Grade: C. Troy is the guy with great potential who just never can seem to get a good grade on the big test. He’s doing OK and you really like him, but he falls just a little short of expectations.

• Newton. Grade: B. Newton is the girl in the front of the room you hardly ever notice until you find out she has the best score in the class. Then you realize, hey, she’s kind of cute …

• Piqua. Grade: C. Whew. It could have been worse. Piqua is the kid who would like to do better but is relieved things didn’t go worse.

• Miami East. Grade: B. This is the kid who moves into a new house and suddenly his grades go up … or he’s the one always working out there in the field while you’re goofing off and in the end you find out he really is pretty smart.

• Dayton. Grade: F. Everyone needs that kid you can point to and say, “Well, at least I did better than him.”

• Trotwood. Grade: D. This is guy who throws a big party because he didn’t fail. Trotwood was the lowest ranked school in the state last year, but moved up this year. We all root for this person … until he starts to get better grades than us.

• Tipp City. Grade: B. She’s the little sister who always manages to get better grades than you. It makes you mad.

• Bradford. Grade: C. Hey, he’s in our class? He’s the quiet guy you hardly notice but who turns out OK in the end.

• Oakwood. Grade: A. The rich kid who gets A+ all the time and has been taking advanced classes since she was 3 years old. We all hate her. She may get good grades, but she’ll never be homecoming queen.

I’m skeptical about the whole process, but I guess it’s here the stay. I just hope I don’t get a call from someone in Columbus telling me I have detention.

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David Lindeman

Contributing Columnist

David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at lindy@woh.rr.com.

David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at lindy@woh.rr.com.