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CENTERS: It's time to grade state report cards

By Joe Centers • Sep 25, 2017 at 2:00 PM

Mr. Foster: (Mr. Foster is reading out the class grades) Miss Rogers, A, Mr. Haskell, B+, Mr. Cleaver, A-, Mr. Rutherford, F.

Clarence 'Lumpy' Rutherford: An F, Mr. Foster?

Mr. Foster: Yes, Mr. Rutherford. It’s the lowest grade they allow me to give.

For all of you oldtimers out there, there was nothing better than watching Leave it to Beaver on your little 13-inch, black-and-white television.

“Leave It to Beaver” is an American television sitcom about an inquisitive and often naïve boy, Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver (portrayed by Jerry Mathers), and his adventures at home, in school and around his suburban neighborhood. The show also starred Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont as Beaver's parents, June and Ward Cleaver, and Tony Dow as Beaver's brother Wally. The show has attained an iconic status in the United States, with the Cleavers exemplifying the idealized suburban family of the mid-20th century, according to its Wikipedia page. 

“Leave It to Beaver” ran for six full 39-week seasons (234 episodes). The series had its debut on CBS on Oct. 4, 1957. 

I bring all of this up not so much for the show, but for the fact Lumpy Rutherford got an F: “It’s the lowest grade they allow me to give.”

An “F” never has been a good thing in school. The state’s latest report cards came out last week and they were riddled with “Fs.”

We have gone through this before. Schools get “F’s” and  then superintendents are left to explain their report cards ... just like children have always have had to do. This time, the shoe is on the other foot.

The problem is no one really is sure what all of the grades mean. 

Five school systems — Bellevue, Edison, Monroeville, South Central and Western Reserve — received an “A” on the overall value-added category, which shows if a student gained one year of academic growth. Plymouth-Shiloh earned a “B” while New London, Norwalk and Willard got “F’s.”

Does that mean Norwalk and Willard are flunking as school systems? Are they the Lumpy Rutherfords among the area schools?

“We are focused on the improvement process and making the necessary adjustment to improve for long-term success. Our improvement on 17 of the 23 indicators shows that together we are moving our district in the right direction,” Norwalk City Schools Superintendent George Fisk said.

“The report card does not show that we have invested in becoming a leader in STEM education through our investment in the (Norwalk Middle School) Creation Station and (Norwalk High School) MakerSpace. We also invested in new (kindergarten through fourth grade) literacy programs to improve our programming with our youngest leaners while also creating a K through 12 writing rubric to bring continuity to our writing process for all students,” he added.

While Edison Local Schools received an “A” on the overall value-added category, Superintendent Tom Roth said the district needs to continue to prepare students for the future and “focus on the needs of our students.”

“I think that our community needs to know that Edison either maintained or raised our grade in every area of the report card. We also were able to meet more indicators than we did last year, even with the state raising the scores on all of the tests in order to meet the indicators. I also think that it is important for everyone to know that we were able to raise our grade in the Closing the Gap component from an ‘F’ to a ‘B,’” he added.

The report cards are just too complex to figure out and explain. An “A” used to mean an “A” and an “F” used to mean an “F.” These grades are all over the board and not really a good representation of the school districts.

The state used to give out indicator scores — Fisk said Norwalk improved on 17 of 23. That is something you can put your finger on and rank against other school districts. This system looks somebody picking grades out of a hat.

This whole report card system in the state is a mess and nobody seems to be able to explain it.

I would give it an “F.”

Joe Centers is Reflector managing editor. He can be reached at jcenters@norwalkreflector.com.

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