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Atkinson concerned by Senate school grading plan

Posted April 11, 2013

— State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said Thursday that legislation moving forward in the Senate that would assign letter grades to each North Carolina public school would provide a misleading picture of their annual performance.

Senate Bill 361, which is also known as the "Excellent Schools Act of 2013," would use a points system based on achievement test results and other measures, such as graduation rates, to arrive at a final grade of A through F.

Some lawmakers have complained that the system doesn't include a component for student academic growth, noting more than two-thirds of high schools statewide would receive a D or F grade under the legislation.

"We want to be truthful and we want to be fair, and we want the grading system to accurately reflect how our schools are performing. Growth is a critical component of how we should grade our schools," Atkinson said.

Broughton High School in Raleigh, for example, could receive a D under the bill's scoring system, despite having an 85 percent graduation rate and being named last year as one of the nation's best high schools by Newsweek magazine.

"It does make me pretty mad because I've put in hard work and my friends have put in hard work to make this school better," Broughton High senior Darius Kirksey said. "I think it's a great school."

Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson Atkinson: Berger plan paints inaccurate picture of schools

Senate leader Phil Berger, who is the primary sponsor of the Excellent Schools Act, said his proposal uses the same system the Department of Public Instruction uses to determine "School of Excellence" and "School of Distinction" honors, but assigning letter grades to the results would make the differences easier to understand by the general public.

Mingling student growth in with that, he said, could allow a school where students aren't passing end-of-course tests to have an artificially high grade.

"You could have a school performing at the D level that looks like a B, based on the model (Atkinson) has, and I don't think its conveying an accurate information to the public," said Berger, R-Rockingham.

Atkinson said having too many failing schools could hurt North Carolina's economy.

"We don’t want to stifle economic development of people moving to North Carolina or people selecting North Carolina as a place to own and expand a business," she said.

Berger countered by saying that an accurate picture of student performance will tell state and local officials where changes, including more support, are needed.

"It’s important to find ways to build support for public schools," he said. "I think that assists us in generating the necessary will to provide resources or help those schools will need to improve."

The House has a competing proposal that includes academic growth in scoring schools and reaches a final grade by comparing each school to a statewide mean. It's unclear how lawmakers will reconcile the two bills.

Berger's legislation also includes provisions for eliminating teacher tenure and implementing merit pay for teachers.

6 Comments

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  • Plenty Coups Apr 12, 6:14 p.m.

    "The "public schools" and their current process relies heavily on doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results"

    So assuming your claim is true, then why can't regular public schools have the same set of rules as Charter school where they don't have to provide transportation or nutritional lunches? Why can't they easily kick out kids like charter schools and private schools but are prevented by law from doing so? Why can't they exclude kids like charter schools w/ gimmicks like saying you need course prerequisites and requiring admittance essays/tests? Wouldn't it also benefit regualr public schools if they too could innovate and not have to educate disabled kids/ umotivated students?

    "We continue to reduce the overall complexity of tests, comprehension, and requirements for graduation - this is continued insanity."

    This claim is complete nonsense. Please provide evidence.

  • Spock Apr 12, 4:46 p.m.

    "Why shouldn't all public schools get to play by the same set of rules?" Plenty Couped UP

    The "public schools" and their current process relies heavily on doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results. We continue to reduce the overall complexity of tests, comprehension, and requirements for graduation - this is continued insanity.

  • noagendajustsense Apr 12, 10:05 a.m.

    Let me pose this question to you: Would you rather YOUR CHILD attend a school where NO CHILD (not even your own) makes academic growth, but every child is proficient...or a school where NO CHILD (not even your own) is proficient, but 100% of the students make academic growth?

    Profiency is a byproduct of growth, not the other way around. So if our teachers are pushing our students, setting the bar high, and not waivering in their expectations, then we see growth. When we see growth, proficiency takes care of itself.

    I am of the opinion that those schools that are consistently showing the highest academic growth numbers are actually our best schools. Just a thought.

  • tracmister Apr 11, 8:25 p.m.

    There is one statement that is absolutely correct in this article. If two-thirds or more of all schools receive a grade of D or F, we will lose business. Instead of politicians, like Berger, deciding a grading system, lets look and see what the upper end schools overseas are doing.

  • Plenty Coups Apr 11, 7:35 p.m.

    Dr. Atkinson is an elected official who's been a teacher and actually knows a little bit about education. Berger's a political ideologue with an agenda. Competition??? Public schools do as good as or better than charter schools and/or private schools once you adjust for population variables. Why do Charter schools get less accountability for taxpayer dollars and a different set of rules? Why shouldn't all public schools get to play by the same set of rules?

  • Spock Apr 11, 5:58 p.m.

    Dr. Atkinson is a clear case of somebody that should have NEVER received tenure. Her opinions are from an old school that cannot help the inspiration of competition and improvement. DO NOT allow this gal to reduce the overall education standards of our state any further.