Educators and lawmakers say labeling schools premature idea

Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Some legislators and educators meeting in Anchorage this week said Alaska isn't ready to start labeling every public school as good, bad or somewhere in the middle.

The plan for labels was signed into law in June 1998 and is scheduled to take effect in August. Schools will be designated as distinguished, successful, deficient or in-crisis.

''The ultimate hammer for a school not being successful is public embarrassment,'' Rep. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, who chairs the House Special Committee on Education, said Tuesday.

The idea is that being branded as underachieving will motivate a school to do better. Supporters say labels will spotlight schools where students aren't learning what they need to know to do well on tests.

But how should schools be scored? A committee of school officials, parents and business people set up a system: One-third should be based on a school's ''status'' -- that year's test scores. The other two-thirds should be based on a school's yearly progress -- measured by comparing that year's test scores to those from the previous year.

That comparison can't be made for another year, however, because this is the first year there are state-required tests at every grade, said Mark Leal, state educational assessment coordinator. That means August's rank could be based on this year's scores only.

Sen. Bettye Davis, D-Anchorage, said she is nervous about the 2002 deadline. ''We're not ready.''

Statewide, school officials fear labels will shatter morale and eclipse progress in schools that are dealing with real obstacles like students who don't speak English or kids regularly moving in and out, according to the Anchorage Daily News. Principals fear teachers will transfer out of schools that need help, parents will lose faith and students in bad-label schools will feel like failures.

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