Michigan takes steps to junk A-F grades for schools


While educators continue pushing back against the A-F grading system for public schools in Texas, top education officials in Michigan are moving to drop plans to impose an A-F grading system there. One reason is fear it would increase the stakes of standardized testing and promote more teaching to the test.

Sound familiar?

Leading the attack against A-F in Michigan are State Board of Education member Tom McMillin and State Education Superintendent Brian Whiston. Whiston had intended to develop an A-F grading system but, unless overridden by the Michigan Legislature, now intends to issue “dashboard” style scorecards that instead of letter grades will include data on graduation rates and other factors in addition to student test scores. The Michigan State Board of Education unanimously opposes A-F.

“A to F just increases the high-stakes nature of the one (standardized) exam, and it’s more teaching to the test,” said McMillin. According to the Associated Press, he said A-F would do “more damage than good” and would force schools to deemphasize creativity classes such as music and art.

Educators applauded the decision against A-F in Michigan, but it was criticized by at least one charter school advocate.

Unlike in Michigan, any repeal of the A-F system in Texas will have to come from the Legislature, which enacted the system in 2015. Unless changed or repealed, it is to go into effect next fall.

TSTA and other public education advocates oppose assigning letter grades to schools because they would primarily stigmatize children from low-income neighborhoods while doing absolutely nothing to improve their educations. And letter grades would increase the high-stakes pressure of the STAAR tests on educators and students because, as the Texas law is currently written, most of the A-F grading will be based on test scores.

During a dry run test of the A-F system earlier this year, schools in low-income neighborhoods received a disproportionate number of “F” scores.

Both House Public Education Chairman Dan Huberty and Senate Education Chairman Larry Taylor have filed legislation to revise Texas’ A-F law, reportedly to meet educators’ concerns by reducing the impact of test scores. TSTA will be following their legislation closely.




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