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D & F: How to consider low school letter grades

I have been worrying about the grade my youngest son’s school would receive for weeks. And, on Thursday, February 5, a date that was marked on my calendar, the first thing I did when the grades were released was type in Moore Square Middle School.

The grade wasn’t a surprise. I knew from the test scores last year that the school was likely to get a D or an F.  It got a D.

But we won’t leave Moore Square because of the grade. And I would send my son there again.

As you consider your school’s grade, I encourage you to do so relative to how your child is doing at the school. My son loves his school. He loves his friends. He loves his classes and his teachers. For me, those things put the D in perspective.

My youngest son chose Moore Square, and he is invested in his decision.

During national school choice week, we heard a lot about “fit.” Fit, when it comes to schools, is important to parents. Moore Square is a perfect fit for my child. My oldest son attends Cary Academy, a private school, and it is a perfect fit for him.

My youngest son chose Moore Square, and he is invested in his decision. Moore Square is a small school relative to other middle schools in Wake County – and having that option has been important for my son.

My son can walk to school, and the ability to do so has instilled him with a sense of place and love for downtown Raleigh. In a poem he wrote for school in the sixth grade, he said,

“I am a child of this city,
     I can walk everywhere I need to go – school, the YMCA, home —
     Everything I need is here within these downtown blocks.”

He has access to a course of study that works for him. He has access to excellent teachers, including two Kenan Fellows.

He adores his art teacher. He appreciates that he has been able to continue learning Mandarin Chinese, which he has taken since kindergarten. He enjoys electives like genetics, oceanography, and technology design and innovation.

My son has a principal that he likes and respects. The principal is a role model for him.

He has developed close friendships with students he did not know before middle school.

His grades and test scores exceed my expectations.

Performance and growth matter. But I encourage parents who send their children to schools that receive low letter grades to circle in.

Performance and growth matter. But I encourage parents who send their children to schools that receive low letter grades to circle in. Invest your time, energy, and resources in the school so that every child has access to a high-quality education, as measured by a wide variety of criteria determined not just by policymakers, but by students, teachers, administrators, and parents themselves.

If your child is not doing well at Moore Square or any other school, then that is a problem. But flight from these schools just because of the letter grade is not the answer.

Here is more information about the letter grades:

The letter grades are required by NC General Statute §115C-83.15.

The grades are calculated based on 80 percent performance and 20 percent growth. There is an exception. If a school meets expected growth but inclusion of the school’s growth reduces the school’s performance score and grade, a school may choose to use the school achievement score only to calculate the performance score and grade. The final grade will be based on a 15-point scale this year, and a 10-point scale for future years. Schools that receive a D or F are required to notify parents in writing.

Here is the press release from the NC Department of Public Instruction about the letter grades.

Here is the press release from Governor Pat McCrory about the letter grades.

Here is an executive summary from the NC Department of Public Instruction about the letter grades.

Here is background information from the NC Department of Public Instruction about the letter grades.

Here is an accountability brief from the NC Department of Public Instruction about the letter grades.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions from the NC Department of Public Instruction.

Go here if you just want to see the grades.

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.