Tri-County Alliance for Public Education Opposes Letter Grading Legislation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, March 1, 2018

Tri-County Alliance for Public Education Opposes Letter Grading Legislation
Educators Encourage Legislators to Embrace New Ideas for School Improvement

Lansing – The Tri-County Alliance for Public Education (TCA) expressed disappointment with the approval of controversial legislation today in the Michigan House of Representatives’ Education Reform Committee that would assign schools A-F letter grades without offering any means to improve student learning or invest in their classrooms. TCA Board President and Superintendent of Farmington Public Schools Dr. George Heitsch said the legislation would open the door to schools being unfairly stigmatized by a grade based largely on standardized test results and other narrowly defined circumstances.

“Education leaders in Southeast Michigan strongly oppose this latest attempt by lawmakers to impose yet another “Lansing knows best” school ranking system. This legislation would only lead to schools becoming more and more focused on standardized test scores rather than real student achievement and growth,” said Dr. Heitsch. “Instead of spending time trying to invent newer and brighter spotlights to shine on struggling schools, it’s long overdue that the legislature refocuses its efforts on providing the tools and resources that all of our schools need to succeed.”

House Bill 5526, introduced by Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw Twp), would create an Education Accountability Policy Commission tasked with assigning every public school in Michigan letter grades between A and F. Those grades would be based on six indicators but rely heavily on the results of the students’ standardized test scores at that school.

TCA has supported the Michigan Department of Education’s work to develop a state accountability dashboard for schools, however, its members are concerned that HB 5526 would require them to focus more classroom time on standard test preparation rather than in depth learning opportunities.

“There’s little question that school accountability is important, and Michigan has made important strides in that direction with its dashboard project,” added Dr. Russell Pickell, Superintendent of Riverview Schools. “The reality is, however, that a number of states that enacted a letter grading system for their schools in recent years have since moved to repeal that decision because of the wide-ranging problems it created.”

TCA members are encouraging legislators to focus on ensuring each and every school is adequately funded and able to provide their students with the learning environment they need. The recently released School Finance Research Collaborative report showed that the formula being used to calculate school funding no longer matches the increasingly costly programs that many of our schools are required to offer, including English as a second language and special education programs. TCA says that studying how to refine our funding formula to better reflect the realities within our schools would do far more to improve struggling schools than assigning arbitrary letter grades.

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The Tri-County Alliance for Public Education is a coalition of education leaders committed to fighting for strong K-12 schools across Michigan. Comprised of Superintendents from every district in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, they are collectively responsible for educating over 500,000 students (over 30 percent of the statewide K-12 population).

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