Ranking schools – or assigning a single letter grade, as the LePage administration has done – is an insincere, cynical political ploy intended to prop up charter schools and dismantle public education. Politicians who beat the drum of school accountability believe that the essence of what great schools do can be captured in a single letter.

A letter grade, of course, doesn’t capture the essence of what a school is, and who its people are. The most important things we do in schools simply can’t be measured.

The Maine Department of Education has just released its second round of report cards.

Not surprisingly, very small, well-funded schools and schools in wealthy communities continue to fare better than larger schools and poorer schools. Indeed, study after study has shown a clear link between income and performance, whether in Maine or across the globe. This link is not considered in the DOE’s simple formula.

Scores of schools in Maine’s 16 counties are expected to overcome poverty and other factors that impact student achievement, lest we be shamed in the press for earning a poor letter grade. It’s understandable that the public wants accountability – to see what their tax dollars yield – but two-thirds of student achievement is the result of out-of-school factors (Education Week, Dec. 4, 2013).

What makes things worse: Maine ranks 36th for pre-K spending. Absent an adequately funded pre-K program, low-income students enter kindergarten 18 months behind, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research. These deficits are compounded year after year. Lawmakers and municipalities starve schools of resources and ask why our grades aren’t fatter.

Teachers, administrators and support professionals in Maine schools work hard to deliver an A-plus education. They ought to be thanked, not dishonored.

Chris Indorf