A bill on its way to the governor for signature will prevent a major upheaval in the way school performance is measured. It’s an issue that WakeEd and others have actively pursued for three years.
House Bill 362, which passed the Senate 49-0 Tuesday, makes permanent a 15-point scale for determining school performance grades. The law had required a shift to a 10-point scale for this school year. The 15-point scale means an A is 100-85, B is 84-70, C is 69-55, D is 54-40, and F is below 40. These grades rate school performance, not student performance.
School performance grades, often referred to as accountability, generally measure how well a school performed each year based largely on student performance on state tests such as End of Grade and End of Course exams. The score’s two main components are student achievement, or how many students passed, and student growth, or how far a student moved academically from beginning to end of the school year.
Updated annually, each public and charter school receives a grade based on a combination of achievement and growth, with 80 percent of the grade coming from achievement and 20 percent from growth. Had the grading scale shifted to 10 points, 65 WCPSS schools with a C grade would’ve moved to a D or F grade, and D and F graded schools are labeled as “underperforming.”
Since 2016, WakeEd, with the support of its Board of Directors, investors, Wake County Public School System, and community partners, actively advocated in each legislative session for keeping the 15-point grading scale. Several bills were filed in each session, and language sometimes made it to early versions of the state budget, including this year’s budget which is stalled while legislators and the governor are negotiating.
There is more work to do. WakeEd joins other education advocates in continuing to support changes to the weighting from 80-20 achievement-growth to a more balanced approach, such as 50-50 weighting.
WakeEd also supports the elimination of the F grade altogether since the “underperforming” label applies at a D grade, there’s no need to further differentiate. An F grade is an unnecessary stigma for schools. However, the use of letter grades themselves oversimplify the school report cards. Instead, WakeEd supports a move to a more comprehensive and still easy to understand model used by WCPSS.