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Schools To Get A,B,C,D and F Grades

Parents will have some grades to review Thursday…not their child’s, but their child’s school. The grades have been the source of much worry and debate.   WFAE's Lisa Worf has this report. That's followed by an interview from WFAE's Marshall Terry with the superintendent of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, which has set up its own system of grading schools.

The state already gives schools report cards. They lay out a bunch of stats, but what’s missing from them is a letter grade. 

“All of us understand what A, B, C, D and F mean when a child brings it home on a report card,” explains State Representative Craig Horn of Union County.

State law now requires the NC Department of Public Instruction to come up with letter grades. It used to assign schools phrases like “School of Distinction” or “Priority School.”

“A letter grade is much more descriptive, much more useful for parents to know how their school is doing, what to expect, and maybe the fact that their school might need some help,” says Horn who co-chairs the House’s K-12 education committee. 

The idea started in Florida in the late nineties and has spread to at least fifteen other states. States calculate the grades differently. 

In North Carolina, most of the grade is based on students’ scores on standardized tests. Twenty percent is based on how much those scores change over time.

Imagine a school where students are really behind. They score low on tests. Those are the schools that will be shortchanged by these grades, even if they have teachers working hard to catch them up, says Leanne Winner with the North Carolina School Boards Association.   

“You may be making miraculous gains with these kids, but because only 20 percent of the grade is based upon that, it may not be accurately reflecting what is going on at that school,” says Winner. 

Winner would rather see grades based half on test scores and half on the growth of those scores.  Republican Representative Horn agrees that may be the best way to go about it. He expects that will come up among his colleagues this session.

Schools receiving Ds or Fs must notify parents, but there will be no penalties for failing grades. Nonetheless, districts and principals have been bracing for the release of these scores.