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EDITORIAL: When does a ‘B’ signify a ‘D’? In many classrooms

Despite widespread griping about the quality of K-12 education, polls consistently show that most parents are happy with the public schools their children attend. Since 2001, Gallup surveys on the topic show an average 76 percent satisfaction rate for those with kids attending a local campus.

This disconnect might be explained by a survey released this week which found that parents are rarely accurately apprised of the academic progress of their children. They’re being deceived.

The report, by Gallup and Learning Heroes, revealed that 88 percent of parents believe their kids are performing at grade level. In reality, testing last year shows that just 36 percent of American fourth graders and 26 percent of eighth graders are proficient in reading. Math numbers are similarly dismal.

Yet the vast majority of students who perform below grade level still bring home report cards packed with decent grades.

“Grades are the holy grail,” Bibb Hubbard, founder and president of Learning Heroes, told The Associated Press. “They’re the No. 1 indicator that parents turn to to understand that their child is on grade level, yet a grade does not equal grade-level mastery. But nobody’s told parents that.”

This makes it difficult even for involved parents to know when academic problems exist.

“Knowing whether a child is ‘at grade level’ is critically important to supporting them,” according to the report, “as parents who recognize their child is not performing at grade level can take different actions to best advocate for their child’s learning and support them at home.”

The problem goes beyond simple grade inflation. Instead, school districts across the country — including in Clark County — regularly promote students who are unprepared for the next grade level. They have also implemented measures that make it easier for students to slide by while gaining minimal knowledge of the subject matter at hand. Consider the Clark County School District’s disastrous “minimum F” policy, which allows unlimited test retakes and imposes a grading floor of 50 percent whether or not work is completed.

In recent years, the education establishment — nationally and locally — has sought to undermine assessments of student achievement in favor of feel-good academic blather and pie-in-the-sky grades in an effort to inflate graduation numbers and mask problems and deficiencies. Meanwhile, public school “activists” fight to kill virtually every reform intended to promote achievement and accountability.

Taken together, it leaves many parents in the dark about what’s actually going on in their child’s classroom. A cynic might conclude that’s the entire point.

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