Rather than being so eager to “grade” schools on a scale of A to F, perhaps New Mexico should evaluate and grade its towns and cities. A panel would establish criteria and rate the caliber of residents and the quality of life. “Wait! That’s not fair!” you’re probably thinking. “Some places have more money, people, jobs, and resources at their disposal. Different towns have different attributes that appeal to different people. One-size doesn’t fit all.”
What would happen to towns that received an “F?” Most likely, a lot of residents would leave. Property values would plummet because it would be hard to attract new residents. The people who couldn’t afford to move away would most likely feel resigned to their fate. A few would fight to improve the town, but progress would be slow. “A” towns would see an influx of residents, driving up housing prices, and possibly putting a strain on roads, water, and infrastructure. Either way, there would be a lot of grumbling and wondering if the “grass is greener” somewhere else.
Similarly, what will happen to the pride of students in “D” and “F” schools? Even “A” students will be wondering if they are getting the best education. What about below-average students at a below-average school? What hope is there for success? New Mexico already has a very high dropout rate—do we really think labeling and discouraging students and schools is going to motivate them? We already have a rating system for schools, and it isn’t working. Making it a more stringent grading system is unlikely to help. If a racehorse isn’t winning, do you beat it? Hopefully not.
Grading is inherently subjective, even if you purport to look at statistics, numbers, finances, and facts. Who of us in school hasn’t received a low grade from a teacher at some point when we thought we deserved better? How did it make you feel? Perhaps it made you more determined to work harder, but for a lot of students, when it happens repeatedly, it discourages them to the point of giving up.
Many progressive schools have done away with the grading system entirely and focus on each student’s progress and growth through portfolios. Students still must learn minimum standards in all subjects, but they are encouraged to rigorously pursue their strengths and interests, developing individual and group projects on their own. Teamwork is encouraged, rather than competition for grades. Doesn’t that sound more like the “real world” of work?
I wonder how our New Mexico legislature would be graded if someone were to rate all the state governments nationwide? Hmmm…..