School rating system is a measure of poverty, not success

Thank you for your editorial, (“Maryland's school rankings tell us what we already know — your education depends on where you live,” Dec. 4). The new scoring system for our schools is just another measure of poverty, not success. Let’s consider, for example, the reliance on standardized test scores. Going into the scoring, Baltimore City and other poorer jurisdictions were already at a disadvantage we would not be able to overcome. But it’s not that our kids are not learning; it’s that the measures we are using punish poverty.

The state’s insistence that PARCC be taken on computers in a jurisdiction which doesn’t even have the infrastructure to ensure heat or air conditioning in all its buildings is clearly punitive. In my son’s school, the PARCC scores dropped considerably between the year they took the paper exam to the year they took the exam on computers. And then, instead of teaching actual content, class time had to be devoted to teaching how to use computers. We are then held side by side with jurisdictions that give iPads to every kindergarten student entering school. How is this just? How is this equity? Frankly, I don’t care if my kid gets an iPad or not, because iPads don’t make kids smart. Knowing how to use an app is not a sign of genius. We have bought into a false narrative that every child must have technology to learn, but clearly that’s not true. The inventors of the computer (and then the iPad) did not have computers at their disposal to invent these ingenious devices. But once they invented these devices, they convinced educators across the country to buy into their necessity as part of educating youth. Our kids shouldn’t be measured on how well they can use a computer. If we know the kids will be more successful taking this exam on paper, why not allow them to take it on paper?

I must assume the state wants to intentionally punish our kids and deny the success we all know they are experiencing. Why aren’t we calling this out for what it is? And then there is the hypocrisy of using an exam that everyone agrees is so faulty, the state has opted not to administer it after this year. Instead of acquiescing as if this newest measure of school success is legitimate, we should demand the state make accommodations for poorer school districts teaching kids without home computers and every other form of technology. If they are learning using a paper and pencil (long standing, enduring tools of the trade), then they should be tested using paper and pencil. That will at least be one easy way we can level the playing field. And our General Assembly needs to finally end the decades of structural racism that permeates the funding formula of our schools.

Aimee Harmon-Darrow, Baltimore

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