We Suggest “Nearly Perfect”


April, 2008

The Massachusetts state Board of Education is unhappy with the mean-spirited words being used to describe government schools that are not up to snuff. Those who are concerned with this less-than-ideal performance have used such adjectives as “failing” and “under-performing.” Schools with persisting imperfections are even bullied with terms like “chronically under-performing.” 

The concern is that educators might be blamed and students might suffer a loss of self-esteem. Parents might even take notice and start complaining to teachers, administrators and elected officials.  

The board’s suggested remedy is to banish such terminology and start describing these schools as “Commonwealth Priority” and, if the imperfections persist, to refer to them as “Priority One” schools.

We believe this initiative should be the cornerstone of Massachusetts’ new education philosophy. What could be more important than the morale of our educators and our students’ feelings of self-worth? 

But does the suggested remedy go far enough? 

We don’t think so. 

We are in a crisis. There are reports of teachers moping about and students with that downtrodden look on their faces. It is time to take desperate measures. Our children and educators deserve no less.

In an effort to make a positive contribution to the state’s education initiative, The Valley Patriot commissioned a study to improve on the state board’s recommendation. The study ended up with two possible improvements. 

The runner-up was “Under Funded” and, for schools with persistent problems, “Grossly Under Funded.” Many of our consultants, parent groups, and community activists fought hard for these options. The suggested terminology clearly places the blame for any imperfections squarely where it belongs: on the taxpayer. In addition, it relieves our legislators, education schools, school boards, administrators, teachers, students, and parents from any culpability.

But in the end the need for effusive congratulation, indeed celebration, prevailed. Like our grading system for students (“A” for perfect and “B” for practically everyone else), our team of education experts and consultants finally settled on “Nearly Perfect” and, for those that are Nearly Perfect for several years in a row, “Consistently Nearly Perfect.” 

When the staff and students in these Nearly Perfect schools hear this, their feelings of self-esteem will soar, parents will beam with pride, the community will celebrate, and the near-perfect performance of these schools will continue. Can greater funding be far behind?