Grades can be grating

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By John Pawlak

Earlier this year, the Rhode Island Central Falls school board made national news by firing all teachers in the high school.
It was a drastic move intended to address the school’s declining performance.  
Union officials quickly condemned the dismissals as “immoral, illegal, unjust, irresponsible, disgraceful and disrespectful” (they would have said more, but they didn’t have a big enough Thesaurus).  
The reason for this mass termination?  The dropout rate was 37 percent and only 7 percent of the students tested proficient in math.
Speaking of math, let’s do a little of it.  A 37 percent dropout rate means that 63 percent of the students graduated.  
If only 7 percent of the students were proficient in math, how did 63 percent of them graduate?  
Can we assume that the school board never noticed the 56 percent discrepancy? (Are you impressed by my ability to subtract percentages?  Clearly, I didn’t get my degree from Rhode Island.)  
By summer’s end, the district hired the teachers back and the news media lost interest in the story, but it fueled the ongoing debate over accountability in student achievement.  

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