Republican State Board of Education member Tom McMillin today joined MEA President Paula Herbart in urging legislators not to move forward with passage of HB 5526, creating a new “A-F” school grading system.
“This new grading scheme will do nothing to improve low performing schools nor will it increase student achievement. However it will raise the bet on what is already viewed as high stakes standardized testing,” McMillin said. “It will take us backward in our efforts to reduce over-reliance on standardized testing and its dominance over the education of our children.”
The A-F plan, which would be the third school performance rating system since 2012, will be largely based on standardized test scores – this time with the potential of attaching school closures to the ratings.
“As we have seen policymakers ramp up the number of standardized tests over the past decade, we have seen a corresponding decrease in student achievement. More testing means less teaching,” Herbart said.
A more nuanced approach to the A-F letter grades for schools is already in operation. The Michigan Department of Education spent more than a year developing the “School Transparency Dashboard” (which meets federal “Every Students Succeeds Act” requirements), to provide a breadth of information on every school building in the state. The dashboard reports more than 20 different factors of school quality, including graduation rates, advanced placement course offerings, student achievement and attendance rates.
“The MDE dashboard is a valuable tool for parents to use to gauge school performance, as it does not place an over-emphasis on standardized test scores,” said McMillin.
Herbart noted that other legislation is under consideration to reduce the impact of standardized tests on educator evaluation. Passing both sends mixed messages to parents and educators alike. She also praised the dashboard, saying, “It received extensive public input, with many professional educators involved in its development, which is in stark contrast to the 13-member commission proposed in this new A-F scheme, which only allows one educator on its panel.”
HB 5526 is opposed by MDE, the State Board of Education, Michigan Parents for Schools, the Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers Michigan, and many other education organizations and stakeholders.