December 2019 Governing Board Letter

The Governing Board held a study session on December 5, 2019, and one of the items we reviewed was PVSchools letter grades. Philosophically, we understand the need for accountability for and to our students, parents and community members. It makes sense – ensure the resources we are utilizing are put to good use and our students are achieving. 

However, the most important factor in all this testing is sometimes forgotten: We are teaching human beings, not robots. Humans who are complicated and intricate. One size will never fit all; it just doesn’t work that way. It would be far easier to measure success if we were teaching robots with no feelings. No stress or trauma. No hunger or homelessness. But that is not who we are teaching. We are teaching students with feelings and thoughts. 

One might assume the students I am describing are those from low socioeconomic neighborhoods, but that’s not the whole case. Divorce, death, serious medical conditions and addiction (just to name a few) are issues that happen across the socioeconomic continuum. Our teachers (who also deal with those same issues in their personal lives) have to teach students who, no matter how well they performed all year, may not be up to the task on the day AzMERIT is tested. As adults, we all have good days and bad days, and children do, too. How would we feel if our boss evaluated us once a year for one day? We’d be pretty nervous in the face of all that pressure. It’s all riding on how you feel that day.

So, before we get absorbed with data from the school letter grades, we need to take a hard look at our students. They are much, much more than a test score, and we need to recognize that to keep this in perspective. A student who can work well in a team, build relationships, be collaborative and problem solve will do well in today’s world. Do we need to be concerned about students’ learning? Of course – we are a school district and that is our purpose. But let’s also make sure we understand that we are a school district of more than 30,000 students, all of whom are complicated, capable and worthy of our effort.

Julie Bacon
PVSchools Governing Board President