The Department of Education’s school letter grades came out and Maxie’s school got a D. In celebration, here is a link to a post I wrote three years ago when the school got a B a year after getting a D. It’s whiplash all up in here! And also deja vu! And also really, really crappy misuse of statistics and standardized test scores!

Here’s the money quote from that earlier post, in case you’re a canker-blossom (my kids’ favorite insult, from MR WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, which my first grader learned while studying and performing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the D school) (oh, wait, no, that year it was a C school, BIG MELON-FARMING DIFFERENCE) and you are too lazy to read the freaking link in the first paragraph which you should just go read already and shut up, that sentence was COMPLETELY clear, clear as SCIENCE:

“The data only looked at 168 kids in four grades. So when the school’s attendance rate dropped from 93.5% to 92.7%, hello, dip of 20 percentile points. And when a busing glitch kept three siblings from getting to school on time for weeks (yup), those kids, through no fault of their own, had a massive impact on attendance scores. [As for the dip in English Language Arts scores]…the  the equivalent of TWO KIDS PER CLASS got lower scores than they did the previous year.”

Seriously: All of this is an indication that for small schools, tiny statistical changes have huge impacts. And test scores have far too much weight in the DoE’s evaluation of schools. (And it’s a shame that values have no place in this evaluation. When I read about cheating scandals at Stuyvesant and Harvard, I think: No way would that happen at Maxie’s school. Not with the constant emphasis on citizenship, community, collaboration and striving for personal best, rather than the tacit encouragement to be a competitive, soulless jerkwad.)

I love my daughter’s school as much as I did when I wrote that earlier post. My older child is now thriving at a citywide middle school widely viewed as one of the best in the city, where I sent her not because it’s on the radar of crazy NYC parents, but because it also emphasizes project work and de-emphasizes standardized tests. My younger one is not going to be an alevin for Halloween. She is going to be Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. Whom she learned about at this crappy D school.


  1. ellen October 2, 2012 at 10:29 am

    When I get reincarnated, I’d like to come back as one of your kids, Marjorie!

  2. Gayle October 2, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Athena, Shakespeare, pfff! But can she fill in a test bubble?

  3. Laura October 2, 2012 at 12:48 pm


  4. Robin Aronson October 2, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    I have so much to say about this, so much that’s not appropriate to say in this context, but there’s the choir and all….but I will say the ridiculousness of the grading, the One Size Fits All approach, and the inability to use any of the data collected in a meaningful way is just….what’s the word…maybe, Pathetic? (Some meaningful use of data on performance: I bet there are schools whose test scores show they should revisit how they’re teaching certain skills and explore best practices from what they’re teaching well to apply to the weaker subject areas. Likewise, I bet there are teachers who’d like to see if there are any trends in their students test scores because perhaps their approach to topic A isn’t as clear as it needs to be or they can learn something from how well they’re teaching topic B. I digress. Did you see this? Anyway, all this to say, I hear you loud and clear and am outraged for the committed and thoughtful teachers, students and administrators I observed there as a student myself.

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