LANSING — Some Michigan lawmakers want to nix an A-to-F grading system for schools that’s just a few years old.
The report card-style grades were intended to provide families with easily understandable measures of school quality.
But the grading system had few supporters among educators when the state began requiring it in 2018. Critics pointed out that Michigan is also rating schools on a scale of 1 to 100, using many of the same metrics as the A-to-F grades, as part of its federally mandated school accountability system.
The House Education Committee heard testimony Tuesday on House Bill 4166 which would eliminate the A-F system. Its sponsor, Rep. Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth, said school officials believe the system is “too simplistic.”
“Giving parents and families contradictory information within two different systems does nothing productive,” Koleszar said. “In fact, the one thing I can assure you is that it causes confusion. When you have two rival systems, the choice is clear. The system that does not meet federal standards is the one that should be repealed.”
The law passed during a lame duck session in 2018. Schools are currently assigned grades in eight areas, including test scores and graduation rates. They don’t receive an overall letter grade. The grades can be viewed on Michigan’s education data website.
Not everyone agrees that dumping the grading system and replacing it with nothing will help parents.
At the Tuesday committee meeting, Minority Vice Chair Rep. Jaime Greene, R-Richmond, said she wants to find a solution that will hold schools accountable, help low-performing schools and also allow an everyday parent to understand if their school is doing well.
“I guess what I’m looking for is something easier for parents to know how their school is performing,” she told officials from the Michigan Department of Education.
Greene told Bridge she doesn’t support the bill because the Legislature is “taking things out, but we’re not replacing things that are going to work.”
She said one idea might be to add a letter grade to the other school rating system, which could help parents have easy-to-understand information about their schools’ performance.
Several school organizations support the bill including Detroit Public Schools Community District, Macomb ISD, Oakland Schools, Wayne RESA and The Michigan Department of Education.
Education Advocates of West Michigan, Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, the Michigan Alliance for Student Opportunity and the Michigan Education Association support the bill.
The Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers is neutral, while the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Great Lakes Education Project Education Fund are opposed to the bill.
Isabel Lohman is a reporter for Bridge Michigan covering K-12 education and higher education. Contact Isabel at firstname.lastname@example.org
Koby Levin is a reporter for Chalkbeat Detroit covering K-12 schools and early childhood education. Contact Koby at email@example.com.