Flawed Letter Grading Bill Passed by Partisan Vote in Senate Despite Warnings From Department of Education

LANSING — HB 5526, Rep. Tim Kelly’s A-F letter grading system for schools, was passed by the Senate’s Republican majority today despite an outpouring of opposition from the education community and a warning from the Michigan Department of Education that the bill violates federal laws and would harm school accountability measures already in place. The Tri-County Alliance for Public Education (TCA) has been sharing serious concerns for weeks that action on this bill during the rushed lame duck session would inevitably lead to unintended and damaging consequences for schools and communities across Michigan.

“This is yet another instance in which legislators have ignored the needs of our schools and our students to instead push forward with a plan that will only make it harder for schools to succeed,” said Dr. Russell Pickell, Superintendent of Riverview Schools & TCA’s Immediate Past President. “This legislation will result in schools being arbitrarily assigned grades that don’t take into account their own unique circumstances & stigmatize them without offering any recourse for them to actually improve.”

The legislation, altered in the middle of the night by the House of Representatives last week with no input from educators, would force the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to develop a system to assign A-F letter grades to schools based on various metrics that wouldn’t take the circumstances each school deals with in & out of the classroom into consideration. Instead, it would judge schools against neighboring districts with potentially vastly different student populations and assign grades based on a bell curve, guaranteeing a certain percentage of Michigan schools will receive failing grades regardless of their actual performance.

The MDE today submitted a letter of opposition to the Michigan Senate citing numerous flaws with the bill that would leave Michigan out of compliance with federal programs and risk significant federal funding for Michigan’s schools. The letter goes on to state that the bill would be, “disruptive for local school district and create confusion for families, students and educators across Michigan.”

“We can’t arbitrarily keep moving the goalposts for schools and expect them to succeed, especially when the system being setup is specifically designed to ensure they don’t,” said Mark Greathead, TCA Vice-President and Superintendent of Woodhaven-Brownstown Schools. “If Governor Snyder wants to leave office without further hurting Michigan’s public education system, he’ll veto this bill. It’s that simple.”

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The Tri-County Alliance for Public Education is a coalition of education leaders committed to fighting for strong K-12 schools across Michigan. Comprised of Superintendents from every district in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, they are collectively responsible for educating over 500,000 students.