Raleigh, N.C. — Public schools would get more credit for their students' academic growth under a bill that the House approved Tuesday.
Schools started receiving A-F letter grades this year based on the performance of students on standardized tests and student improvement from one year to the next. A 2013 law that created the grading system weighted the test scores at 80 percent of the formula and academic growth at 20 percent.
About 30 percent of schools statewide received a D or an F grade for the 2013-14 school year, and many educators and parents blamed the grading formula. They said it is unfair to schools in poorer areas, where student achievement lags and staffs work hard to bring students up to grade-level performance.
House Bill 803 would change the formula to a 50-50 weighting of test scores and academic growth, starting with the 2014-15 grades that will be issued next February. The House has already approved legislation that would retain the 15-point grading scale – 85-100 is an A, 70-84 a B and so on – for another year before tightening to a 10-point scale.
"There's very little consensus across the state as to what we're using, let alone across the country," said co-sponsor Rep. Marvin Lucas, D-Cumberland. "This is an attempt to get it right."
Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, noted that a number of states use a 50-50 formula to assess school performance, while others use up to six factors in their calculations. Michigan even uses a color-coded system that includes purple and lime green.
"If we go to that, I'm moving to Tahiti," Glazier said of the color scale.
Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, said any combination of test scores and academic growth is an inherently flawed way to gauge school performance. He said schools should receive two separate grades.
"To me, this is just the wrong approach. We need to get away from this combining of mashed potatoes and Jell-O," Stam said.
The House approved the bill 113-3, so it next heads to the Senate.
Read to Achieve changes backed
The House also passed a proposal to adjust the state's Read to Achieve program, under which students must be reading at grade level by the third grade. Students who don't meet the standard must either attend a six-week reading camp over the summer or repeat the third grade.
The 2012 law has been criticized as requiring too much testing, and lawmakers tried to tweak it last year. But differences between the House and the Senate bogged the process down, and many were dissatisfied with the ultimate compromise.
Glazier said House Bill 673 basically reiterates the changes House members wanted last year, including fewer tests, giving teachers the ability to try other assessments on students having difficulty with the tests and offering alternatives to the summer reading camps.
Even though they passed unanimously, Glazier acknowledged he's unsure how the proposed changes will fare in the Senate.