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Lawmakers Want To Tweak New A-F Grading System For NC Schools

Flickr via Cynthia Ahrens

Some North Carolina lawmakers are looking to make changes to the state's new A-F grading system for public schools. 

In February, public schools received their first-ever grade based on how well their students performed on standardized tests and how much academic growth they made. Almost 30 percent of schools received Ds and Fs, most of which had large populations of low-income children. 

The grades were calculated on a 15-point scale, so schools received As if they scored between 85-90 and Fs if they scored below 39.

State law mandates moving to a 10-point scale starting next school year, but lawmakers have a proposed a bill to hold onto the 15-point scale for a couple of more years. 

"How can you have year after year comparisons if you're changing the rules? You can't do that," said representative Craig Horn (R-Union).  

Many more schools would likely receive Ds and Fs under a 10-point scale. The proposal quickly passed in the House and is now before the Senate. 

Representative Bryan Holloway (R-Stokes) said he thinks the state should get rid of the grading system altogether. "I think they're artificial grades," he noted. Still, he is in support of keeping the 15-point scale around.

Other related proposals would change the grading formula so that student improvement is given more weight. Currently,  80 percent of the grade is determined by how students perform on end-of-year tests, and 20 percent is based on student growth. 

Senator Josh Stein (D-Wake) proposed a bill that would change the formula to 40 percent student performance, 60 percent student growth. Another House bill from Tricia Cotham (D-Mecklenburg) would change it to 20 percent performance, 80 percent growth, and a group of Republican representatives are proposing that schools have two separate grades, one for performance and another for improvement.  

Those bills will likely not get as much support, especially from Senate Republicans, who argue that it could lead to policy whiplash and make it difficult to evaluate a school's actual progress. 

Reema Khrais joined WUNC in 2013 to cover education in pre-kindergarten through high school. Previously, she won the prestigious Joan B. Kroc Fellowship. For the fellowship, she spent a year at NPR where she reported nationally, produced on Weekends on All Things Considered and edited on the digital desk. She also spent some time at New York Public Radio as an education reporter, covering the overhaul of vocational schools, the contentious closures of city schools and age-old high school rivalries.
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