StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee’s education reform outfit, issued an F grade to South Dakota and 10 other states today in its first ever state policy report card.
With B-minuses, Louisiana and Florida got the top grades. So much for grade inflation.
StudentsFirst contributed $50,000 in defense of Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s reform bill, HB1234 or RL16, which voters rejected last year.
Here is their summary of South Dakota education policies:
Currently, South Dakota’s education policies do not prioritize great teaching, empowering parents with quality choices, or using resources wisely to raise student achievement. The state legislature enacted legislation in 2011* to strengthen efforts to attract and identify excellent teachers, but that legislation failed to pass a voter referendum. Unfortunately, South Dakota educators are still without meaningful evaluations and their performance does not play a role in any personnel decisions, including tenure, dismissal, and salary decisions. Seniority still drives layoff decisions, leaving effective teachers at risk.
South Dakota also does not provide parents with meaningful information regarding school or teacher performance, and parents have no educational options when their children are trapped in low-performing schools. Finally, South Dakota should establish state authority to intervene in low-performing schools and districts and should offer teachers a more attractive, portable retirement option.
* That should say 2012. They also identify the state as North Dakota twice on the report card.
Notably, South Dakota gets an F on empowering parents to get their kids out of low-performing schools. It’s hard to compare policies across all 50 states, but you’d think Students First would have recognized and given credit for South Dakota’s open enrollment policy.
Another thing to consider is South Dakota generally supports local control, so it’s rare - although less so in recent years - for the state to get involved in things like teacher compensation policy or class size mandates. Reformers would like to see the state legislature step in and say, “We know what’s good for you.”
The New York Times quotes Richard Zeiger, California’s chief deputy superintendent, as calling its F rating a “badge of honor.”
“This is an organization that frankly makes its living by asserting that schools are failing,” Mr. Zeiger said of StudentsFirst. “I would have been surprised if we had got anything else.”