This week the Senate approved legislation which would extend the 15-point scale used this year for calculating the A-F School Performance Grades for another two years. For the 2014- 2015 and 2015-2016 school years, House Bill 358 requires the conversion of the total school performance score to a 100-point scale and to determine a school performance grade for each school based on a 15-point scale where a performance score of 85 or above is an overall performance grade of A, a school performance score of at least 70 is an overall performance grade of B, a school performance score of at least 55 is an overall performance grade of C, a school performance score of at least 40 is an overall performance grade of D, and a school performance score of less than 40 is an overall performance grade of F.
Without legislative action this year the school performance grade score is set to be based on a 10-point scale according to current law. The bill was approved by Senate Education/Higher Education Committee on Wednesday morning before gaining full Senate approval later in the week. The bill has previously been approved by the House and now awaits the Governor’s signature. During a committee hearing on the bill, Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake) asked the bill sponsor, Rep. Jeffrey Elmore (R-Wilkes), his view of adjusting the formula for weighing school performance and school growth in calculating the school performance grade. Rep. Elmore indicated the House has passed legislation this session doing this, House Bill 803, and that the bill now resides in the Senate. Chairman of the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph) suggested that bill “may or may not be before the committee at a later date,” before indicating later during the meeting that keeping the weight formulas the same for now would give legislators 3 years of comparable data to use when addressing changes to the A-F School Performance Grades in the coming years. Sen. Bill Cook (R-Dare) stated during the meeting that he too felt growth should be a bigger factor in the grade determination. During debate of the bill on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon, Sen. Stein offered an amendment which would change the formula for the school performance grades from 80% performance and 20% growth to 50% each. Through a parliamentary maneuver the amendment was never technically voted on. The bill then passed the full Senate unanimously.
As part of our 2015 Legislative Priorities, NCASA is asking the General Assembly to make the following changes: • Make the 15-point grading scale, rather than a 10-point scale, permanent after the first set of grades are released.
• Revise the composite grade from 80% performance and 20% growth to 50% for each component.
• Show, in addition to or in lieu of the composite, separate grades for performance and growth.
• Look at models from other states and follow their example in factoring in student demographics and overall school climate (such as a reduction in suspensions, improvement in school safety indicators, and the level of parent involvement, etc.) in the letter grading system, which now relies mostly on test performance of students.
• Direct additional resources and flexibilities (such as calendar flexibility) to the lowest-performing schools (those rated as D or F) to support implementation of new strategies for improvement.
• Reduce the number of tests students must take (which factor into the overall school grading system) and focus remaining tests on formative rather than summative assessments to help tailor instruction to each student’s needs.
• Allow the State Board of Education to adjust the grading system on an ongoing basis to prevent an excessive swing in letter grades when the current standards are revamped, and when future changes occur to the standards, curriculum and assessments.
• Involve superintendents, principals and other public school leaders in revising the grading system into one that better reflects each school’s complete performance and ensures ongoing public confidence in, and support of, the school and its viability in the local community.
By Adam Pridemore for NCASA