No Grades Means No Accountability for Department of Education Teachers, Principals, Board of Education

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    Such minions who populate our state Department of Education as the report-card coordinator and the director of planning and evaluation deserve kudo’s for attempting to economize in these difficult times.

    Two Card Monty is evidently thought cheaper and faster than the three card variety and without any loss of effectiveness in terms of conning the mark.


    The move away from traditional grades as reported by Advertiser Staff Writer Eloise Aguiar on Tuesday, April 29 continues a process described by the legendary James Boren, the gifted labor organizer who founded of the Professional Bureaucrats Union (PROBU) a quarter century ago. He coined the term “orbital fuzzification” to describe how the prudent bureaucrat deftly dances away from accountability for actual results.

    The tempo of the public education dance here in Hawaii dramatically picked up some years ago with what might be called “the LeMahieu Two-step.” Fancy talk about standards and accountability [step one] was the fig leaf used to cover the same old vague humma humma [step two] expensively re-issued as 10 cute booklets called Hawaii Content and Performance Standards (“Hiccups” in teacher-speak). Forget that the “contents” remain unquantifiable mush and that performance of neither student nor teacher can be objectively measured. The dance is all.

    After the two step came The Waltz of the Sugar Plum Publications, all expensively produced on fine glossy paper, all putatively having to do with “standards.” The muse Terpsichor smiles as dancers swirl toward — but never actually reach — “Standards Implementation.”

    This is a movement in which teachers are encouraged to post all manner of good intentions on their classroom walls in the pretense this has anything to do with what is actually being taught or learned. The orbital fuzzification dance troop never closes in on the implementation objective for good reason: What does not exist cannot be implemented.

    In response to a discordant blast recently sounded by the feds — No Child Left Behind regs that for the first time in forty years threatens to link future funding streams to actual, measurable performance — the DOE has now scored the first draft of an exciting new phase of the dance: The Grade Free Tango. Like tennis without a net, all will now be invited to play. No longer will talent, dedication, hard work and actual results be the obstacles they once was to achieving the long sought Lake Woebegone Paradigm (i.e., all children above average).

    Reporter Aguiar notes seven “grading” criteria for 6th grade math by way of example: “uses and justifies strategies to compute with whole numbers, fractions, decimals and percents”; “defines and applies geometric concepts and relationships … designs surveys, analyzes data, and draws conclusions based on the mean, median, mode and range and describes limitations of the representations.” No longer will those pesky but familiar A, B, C, D and F grades be used to describe student proficiency in actual math skills.

    Instead of actually being called upon to perform those horrid computations, students will instead be encouraged to join the dance by using and justifying strategies, designing surveys, drawing conclusions, and so forth.

    This is a golden moment in accountability avoidance that would warm the cockles of any orbital fuzzificator’s heart: the low fat/no sweat version of letter grades: E, M, N, U and NA (aka Grade Lite). Once this zenith of streamlined dance perfection is achieved our DOE can confidently report ALL our schools are meeting their annual yearly progress targets, thus preserving federal funding streams.

    This of course leads one to suspect a super efficient game of One Card Monty will soon be “rolled out” by the DOE in which everyone will get exactly the same grade. Anticipating that milestone in the charade masquerading as public education, I have a suggestion. That grade should be NA — not accountable.

    ”’Thomas E. Stuart is a public school teacher at Kapaau, Hawaii. He can be reached via email at”’