News: Quick Takes

Bills aim to revamp school performance grades

Democratic lawmakers are looking to change school performance grades by providing separate marks for achievement and growth.

Mecklenburg Democrats Sens. Joyce Waddell, Natasha Marcus, and Mujtaba Mohammed introduced Senate Bill 176 on Monday, March 4. A similar bill was filed in the House on Feb. 28. Mecklenburg Democratic Reps. Kelly Alexander, Nasif Majeed, and John Autry introduced House Bill 249 to revamp the school report card system.

The bills would modify the school performance report cards to give schools separate grades. One grade would score schools on student achievement; the other on how the school has improved over time.

Terry Stoops, vice president of research and director of education studies at the John Locke Foundation, said the bills would solve one problem but would create another.

“On the one hand, it would end the debate about how proficiency and growth should be weighted in the calculation of a single grade,” Stoops said. “On the other hand, the use of separate school performance grades for proficiency and growth, which may differ wildly from one another, may confuse parents who seek a simple metric to judge the performance of the school.”

Legislation passed during the 2013 long session started the practice of granting schools a letter grade based on a 15-point scale. The current school report card combines growth and achievement in a single grade. Achievement is weighted at 80 percent, and growth is weighted at 20 percent.

Some say the system favors achievement over growth. Others have argued the grades unfairly stigmatize low performing schools, some of which teach a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students. North Carolina has 476 low-performing schools. These are schools with a D or an F grade that have failed to meet growth expectations.

“Consider a school that would receive a D for proficiency and an A for growth. For many parents, those grades would provide less clarity about the overall performance of the school than if it were awarded a C under the current system,” Stoops said.