North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction says our son goes to a “D” school. The state is wrong. We are in the school constantly, volunteering, working with our university students who intern there, and talking to teachers, students, and school leadership. A “D” isn’t an accurate reflection of the learning that happens there. As professors who teach future teachers and research in the area of educational ethics and policy, we wouldn’t send our kids to failing schools. Luckily, we think most schools in High Point are doing really well.
Let’s be clear: the state grading system was created by politicians. Not educators. Not education policy experts. Not anyone who has a clue how to evaluate educational quality. And it was created the way it is for political reasons, to serve political ends.
The current “grades” are developed out of a formula where 80% of the grade is determined by proficiency and only 20% by growth. Proficiency is simply a measure of if kids are academically performing at grade level. On the surface this makes sense – we want to know if the kids in a school are on grade level. But from an educational quality standpoint, proficiency tells us almost nothing about the quality of the schools, curriculum, or teachers. Why? Because proficiency tracks in almost lock-step with income. As a whole, students living in low-income households tend to come to school several years behind kids from middle-income homes. Public schools have to educate the kids who walk through the door, so low-income schools tend to start with more students who are already behind.
If you want to know if a school is doing a good job teaching kids, then the key question is, “do the kids learn once they are in the building?” The measurement we use for that is school growth. What shocks people is that the schools with the highest growth can have low proficiency. How can this be? Well, the kids in these schools are learning more year-to-year than kids in other schools; they just started farther behind. When we just look at growth – at how much kids are actually learning each year – the best schools in High Point this year were Fairview Elementary, High Point Central High School, Kearns Academy, Johnson Street Global Studies, Southwest Elementary, and Triangle Lake Montessori Elementary.
When we say that High Point has great schools, we aren’t just being cheerleaders. We are looking at the data: the growth data. Kids are learning in High Point Schools. While no single “grade” can capture school quality, if we grade the schools based just on growth (or how much the kids are actually learning in the school), High Point has 6 A schools, 12 B schools, 5 C schools, 1 D school, and no failing schools. Our son goes to a ‘B’ school by that metric. That sounds about right. He’s learning a lot, and we are thankful to all the High Point teachers and principals who ensure that each year our kids are growing and learning.
Below are the grades High Point schools ought to have based on student learning:
Allen Jay Elementary B
Allen Jay Middle B
T Wingate Andrews High B
Fairview Elementary A
Ferndale Middle C
Florence Elementary B
Penn-Griffin Schools C
High Point Central High A
Kearns Academy A
Middle College at GTCC-High Point B
Johnson Street Global Studies A
Kirkman Park Elementary B
Montlieu Academy of Technology C
Northwood Elementary B
Oak Hill Elementary B
Oak View Elementary C
Parkview Village Elementary B
Shadybrook Elementary B
Southwest Elementary A
Southwest Guilford High B
Southwest Guilford Middle D
Triangle Lake Montessori Elem A
Union Hill Elementary B
Welborn Middle C
The narrative about High Point schools won’t change unless we change it. So let’s start reporting the grades that more accurately reflect the efforts of our educators and the learning of our kids.
Rev. Dr. Joe Blosser and Dr. Allie Blosser are professors at High Point University and live in High Point.