State Board of Education members question school grading system

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- The North Carolina State Board Of Education coming to your school can be a daunting idea for staff. But today in Winston-Salem, board members came to visit; not to hurt, but to help.

The board has a planning retreat twice a year, and this year, they chose the Piedmont Triad.

One of the schools they visited was Mineral Springs Elementary School in Winston-Salem; a school that received a “C” grade by the state.

“This grade of C doesn’t reflect the wonderful things that are going on at Mineral Springs Elementary School,” said board member A.L. “Buddy” Collins. “It’s going to be hard for anybody to find a better elementary school that Mineral Springs in the state of North Carolina.”

Collins said the grading system is based off proficiency and growth but doesn’t tell the whole story.

“I do not think the grading system reflects what’s going on in the schools,” Collins said. “If all you know about a school is the grade, you don’t know a whole lot about what’s going on.”

Many schools, like Mineral Springs Elementary School, are in low-income areas. This often translates to students transferring in when they are below the standards for their grade levels. So, as the teachers work to improve the skills their students have, the state grading system calculates a grade which reflects poorly on the school and its staff.

“The students are not a grade, they’re not a number, and the same thing applies to the school,” said Keana Triplett, N.C. Teacher of the Year, who also teaches at a school with a “C” grade. “We know we’re doing great things in the classrooms and we are working as hard as we can, yet we pull off a C.”

Triplett added that the low grades given by the state can be bad for teacher morale in a state already struggling to keep teachers from going elsewhere.

“This cultural dynamic that we have, that is suppressing the teaching profession, and is showing it in a negative light, I think that these grades kind of contribute to that.”

Collins urged parents who are looking at potential schools for their children to not base their choices simply off of the grades given by the state.

“If something is as precious as your child, you need to come and visit a school,” he said.

In the meantime, Collins said the school board will make an effort to convince our lawmakers to do the same.

“We can certainly talk to the legislature and ask the members of the legislature to do what we’re doing, and that is come to visit schools,” he said.