NC bills would delay start of tougher school grading scale

Bills filed Wednesday with the support of influential state lawmakers would delay for two years tougher standards that could result in most of North Carolina’s public schools getting D or F performance grades.

Senate Bill 450 and House Bill 358 would keep in place through the 2015-16 school year the use of a 15-point scale, where A is 85-100, when evaluating schools’ performance under the A-F grading system. Schools are now scheduled to switch to a 10-point scale, in which an A would be 90-100, starting with this year’s results.

The 15-point scale helped cushion the impact of the new letter grades for schools in the 2013-14 school year, resulting in more than 70 percent of public schools getting grades of A-C. If the 10-point scale had been used, more than 70 percent of schools would have received D or F grades.

An F grade in the 15-point scale is a score of less than 40. Under a 10-point scale, an F would represent a score of less than 60.

Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Republican, said the new legislation is designed to provide consistency in how schools are evaluated, not to hide the number of schools with poor grades. Horn is one of several chairs of the House and Senate education committees who are primary sponsors of the legislation.

“Let’s stay with one scale for the next couple of years so we have an opportunity to make a reasonable comparison,” he said.

Republican lawmakers said the A-F system makes it easier for parents to judge schools. But critics contended that a single grade is too simplistic and would stigmatize schools.

Schools are largely evaluated on performance on standardized tests, with 80 percent of the letter grade reflecting passing rates and 20 percent based on how much students learned year over year – a measure of student “growth.”

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