Senators passed a House bill on Thursday that allows the state to continue the practice for two more years of awarding schools A-F letter grades on a 15 point scale—but they failed to act on a proposal to adjust the school grading formula so that the letter grades no longer serve as a simple indicator of whether a school serves rich students or poor students.
Beginning with data from the 2013-14 school year that was first unveiled this past February, North Carolina’s public schools began receiving letter grades that are intended to gauge how well schools are educating students. In the accountability system’s first year, a school had to score 85-100 points to get an A, 70-84 points to get a B, and so on.
With 2014-15 data, schools would have had to score 90-100 points to get an A, 80-89 points to get a B, etc according to current law. The switch would mean many schools would drop a letter grade—even if they had been making good academic progress with their students. Today’s passage of HB 358 will delay that switch for two years.
The bill does not fix the more contentious part of the A-F school grading model, an accountability system that is the brain child of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. That issue is the formula for how the A-F grades are calculated for schools.
Currently, 80 percent of a school’s grade is based on how well its students perform on standardized tests on a given day, referred to as ‘achievement.’ Twenty percent of the grade is based on how well students “grow” over time – whether or not their test scores improve year to year, which many education advocates say is a better measure of how well a school is doing to educate kids.
Senator Josh Stein attempted to amend HB 358 on the Senate floor on Thursday to change the A-F school grading formula to 50 percent achievement, 50 percent growth – but his amendment was tabled by fellow lawmakers.
“Achievement is entirely correlated to income,” said Stein. “Schools do well when they come from a well to do community…growth is not correlated to income. Kids learn from wherever they are, whether they are poor or whether they are rich—if they are taught well.” Read More