In 2013 North Carolina approved legislation to assign performance grades for all North Carolina public schools. The legislation required the Department of Public Instruction to assign letter grades (A,B,C, D and F) to each public school (see methodology) . The intent of the bill was to provide parents with more information and enhance transparency. School grades were to be based initially on a 15 point grading scale defined as A = 85-100;, B=70-84; C=55-69; D=40-54 and F < 40. Beginning in the fall of 2015-16 academic year, school grades would be based on a 10-point grading scale with an A =90-100; B=80-89; C=70-79; D=60-69; F <59.
Last week State Rep. Linda Johnson introduced legislation (HB 358) that would keep schools using the 15-point scale until the fall of 2016-17 school year.
There are plenty of problems with how grades are developed and how growth and achievement are measured. I discuss some of those issues here and here. Under the current plan, 80 percent of the school grade is based on achievement and 20 percent is on growth. Under the more generous 15 point grading scale, 29 percent of schools still received a D or F designation.
Based on changing sentiment, there seems to be a good chance that the percentages used to calculate growth and achievement will be revisited.
That doesn’t change the fact that the 15 point scale is still a bad idea. Simply stated a 15 point grading scale defines down failure and lowers academic standards. It papers over a serious problems and gives parents false information about schools. Extending the 15 point grading scale is a gimmick that puts off tough decisions with no guarantee that we’ll have a better way to grade schools. It’s a move that says North Carolina lacks true leadership and is not serious about school reform.
It a move we can live without.