LANSING — On Tuesday, Dec. 18, the Republican-controlled State Senate narrowly passed legislation requiring the state to give public schools A-F letter grades beginning next year.
In the final week of the lame duck session, the Senate passed the legislation 21-17, without floor debate at 8:22 p.m., with six Republicans joining all 11 Democrats in voting no. The State House had previously approved the bill by a narrow margin in a 3 a.m. vote on Dec. 13.
The bill will go to Gov. Snyder for his signature. Although he’d pushed for an A-F system in his state of the state speech earlier this year, his office said he needs to review the legislation in its final form.
School wouldn’t receive a cumulative letter grade. Instead, the State Department of Education will grade them in five categories: Students’ overall proficiency on standardized tests in math and English language arts; their growth on those assessments; graduation rates; academic performance compared to schools with similar student populations and progress for children whose first language is not English.
The grades would be released starting next September and be issued annually.
The measure would require the Education Department to rank each school as significantly above average, above average, average, below average or significantly below average based on student rates of chronic absenteeism, participation on state tests and performance compared to similar peers.
“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,” Russell Pickell, superintendent of the Riverview Community School District, said in a statement.
Pickell is the former president of the Tri-County Alliance for Public Education, which represents districts in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, and called for the Republican governor to veto the bill.
Interim State Superintendent Sheila Alles said in a letter to state senators on Tuesday that the bill would conflict with U.S. law and violate the state’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. She also said it “undermines two years of investment and stakeholder input” on the state’s new parent dashboard and includes provisions that either conflict with a federally approved plan or violate federal law.
Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti has also blasted the legislation, saying it could also force the city district to use the proposed state system instead of its own A-F letter grade system that was mandated under a 2016 state bailout and is set to be unveiled later this month.