Today marked another important day for parents at the Statehouse. Following the testimony of Shawanda last week, two more parents showed up in support of keeping the A-F labels in the state accountability system. Dontia and Swantella took time out of their busy schedules to speak in support of HB 1514 maintaining the A-F system while also calling for the system to be more transparent and accessible for parents. Their voices represent many parents who want to know how their child’s school is doing when it comes to educating their kids.
Read their testimonies:
My name is Dontia Dyson. I am a public school father and I am here because the A-F system is important to keep and I want to share how the A-F system changed my daughter’s entire life.
After my daughter experienced bullying and wasn’t making friends in a nearly all-white school, I moved her to our neighborhood school. At the time, I didn’t know the A-F system existed. She was making friends, but she was not learning much. It was around this time, I learned about A-F. When I looked up her school, I was shocked to find out it was failing and had been for years. Even being new to the system, I knew what an “F” meant. There is no problem with understanding A-F. The problem is making it more accessible and known to parents.
I was so glad to learn about this life-changing tool because it was easy to understand and allowed me to find the best school for my daughter; a school that both has peers that look like her and share her life experiences—but it also a good letter grade. From this grade, I know the information they are supposed to be teaching the kids, is reaching them. I knew my daughter could go to a school that would give her a quality education and still allows her to make friends.
Everyone knows what an A grade means, what a B means, what a C means, and so on. Period, point-blank—a new system would be confusing. A new system seems more like a great way to disguise failing schools, struggling school—schools that need help. I don’t want that for Indiana families.
The A-F system changed my daughter’s life. I don’t want this abolished. It’s transparent and people understand it. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
My name is Swantella Nelson. I am an IPS mother and I like the current A-F school grading system. It was this system that helped me decide where to send my now 4th-grade daughter to school. I can go online right now and see that my child’s school has an “A” rating and how children are performing. When I was looking for her school, I could also see that the school down the block was failing. It’s simple and looks a lot like my daughter’s report card. When I look at her report card, I know where she is excelling, where she is average, and where she needs work. If she really needed to work on a particular subject, I would know that too. I worry that a different system for our schools would be harder for parents like me to understand. Grades are universal and every parent understands what they mean.
I can compare it to a behavioral system my daughter’s previous school used. It was a color system and I had such a hard time understanding how she was doing. It was too vague and often confusing. I wondered if yellow meant she was improving or getting worse? As a parent, that system left me having to dig for answers, and eventually, I stopped paying attention to it. I don’t want that for our schools. I don’t want that for parents who are making one of the most important decisions they will make for their children; where to send them to school.
More than just as a parent, but as an advocate for improving schools that are not equitable or not giving children the education they have a right to, I also want this system intact. I’m afraid another system or a lack of a system will mean parents simply don’t know.
My youngest son isn’t in school yet, but it’s fast approaching and it’s this A-F system that will help me understand which school is best for him. He may not want to go to the performing arts school his sister attends, it may not be right for him. I don’t want to be left in the dark, in a position where I have to send him to a school I am unsure about.
I’m not saying you can’t make this system even more transparent and easier for parents to access, but I do believe A-F is easy for parents like me to understand and I do not want to see it go.