Wake County school leaders want the General Assembly to abolish a new program that will give every public school in the state an A through F grade based on students’ performance on exams.
Republican legislative leaders have said the new grading system will help parents know how their children’s schools are doing, while school board members say no school can be evaluated on a single grade. The new system’s elimination was among items a school board committee recommended Monday for state lawmakers’ consideration when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.
“You always hope that your voice will be heard on different matters,” said school board member Keith Sutton, chair of the government relations committee. “We always want to take advantage of the opportunity to speak out on particular issues.”
The full board is scheduled to discuss and vote Tuesday on the legislative agenda.
The new grades, which will be released in February, are expected to result in many schools across the state getting a D or F. Test scores are still rebounding after the introduction during the 2012-13 school year of harder exams based on the Common Core state standards.
Eighty percent of the grade will be based on passing rates on exams, with 20 percent related to growth: the amount of progress students made even if they didn’t pass. Some education leaders say that if the grades for schools are kept that more weight should be given to growth.
The American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group backed by major corporations, prepared model legislation encouraging states to adopt A through F school grading systems. In an October report, ALEC praised North Carolina’s adoption of the school letter grades as “a crucial step toward increasing transparency in the system.”
But in Wake’s draft legislative agenda, school leaders say the existing state-mandated School Report Card for every school “far exceeds” what parents would learn from a single letter grade. The report card includes information about school size, student performance by subgroups, safety, discipline, textbooks, technology, teacher quality and demographics.
Sutton said that if the legislature can’t abolish the letter grades, the next best option might be revisions to give greater weight to growth.
Many of the items, such as changes to the A through F grading system, were recommended by the N.C. School Boards Association. Other items in Wake’s draft agenda from the state list include more funding for teacher pay, school construction, technology, driver’s education and pre-kindergarten.
Some local Wake add-ons include allowing students to fly unmanned aircraft known as drones and amending state law to reduce the time spent on responding to public records requests.