With no fanfare, Michigan posted letter grades for every public school in the state on Tuesday morning.
The grades had been long-awaited by those who pushed for them. But their arrival in the midst of a pandemic-related schools shutdown likely means they’ll get overlooked by those they are intended to be useful for — parents and others in the community who want to assess the quality of schools.
“We have many, many other priorities right now that are much more important than looking at a letter grade,” said Chris Wigent, executive director of the Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators. He said that although fulfilling the law’s requirements is important, “We truly hope that parents and communities will focus on the urgent issues with which we are being faced right now.”
The grades comply with a 2018 law that requires the state Education Department to rate schools based on a handful of factors that are meant to measure school quality.
Many education associations, including Wigent’s, were opposed to the concept of letter grades because it introduced a second accountability system for schools and was rushed through a legislative lame duck session with little input from educators, Wigent said.
The state’s existing accountability system includes a dashboard that provides data on school performance such as test scores, graduation and attendance rates, and expulsions. The dashboard also includes a numerical rating of schools, from 0 to 100, based on academic performance and school quality.
Despite objections from education associations and the state Education Department, the Michigan Legislature and then-Gov. Rick Snyder enacted the law in the waning days of the legislative session in 2018. Advocates say the grades are crucial to pushing schools to improve academically. That’s important, they’ve said, because Michigan students have struggled on state exams and slipped in national rankings.
The state budget adopted last year required that the grades, based on academic data from the 2018-19 school year, be released by March 31.
There is no one overall grade. Instead, the law requires grades to be given in five categories: student proficiency, student growth, graduation rates, performance compared with schools with similar demographics, and progress of English language learners.
In addition to letter grades, schools will be ranked based on several factors, including attendance, participation in standardized tests, and the performance of student subgroups. Subgroups in Michigan include students of color, from low-income homes, with special education needs, and English learners. The rankings show whether the school is above average, average or below average.
Want to know how the state graded your school? Check our searchable database below:
Type the name of your school and up to five others to see how they stack up according to Michigan’s latest school grading system.
Source: Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information