A-F Letter Grading: Myths vs. Facts


MYTH: Schools will receive a single grade based on a single “high stakes” test.

FACT:  Similar to individual student report cards, a school letter grading system will provide an important snapshot of school performance; evaluating student proficiency, growth, improvement of the lowest performing students, and graduation rate for high schools.  The MDE will use multiple assessments to measure proficiency and growth for students in different subjects. Also, each school will publish a transparency dashboard with a dozen measurements and factors beyond the A-F letter grade for academic achievement.

MYTH: The system is constantly changing and this will add more confusion.

FACT: Past measures like color labels, top to bottom ranking, and “focus” school designations were developed without legislative input. HB 5112 will streamline and consolidate MDE’s many accountability systems, ensuring consistency as future performance data will be based on the letter grading framework within the bill.

MYTH: HB 5112 expands the EAA.

FACT:  The legislation has nothing to do with the EAA.  HB 5112 is about improving how school performance data is presented to the public.  The A-F letter grading system will replace the Top to Bottom list used to identify failing schools, beginning in 2016.  Schools receiving multiple “F” grades will be subject to the state school reform office – just as it is now for schools in lowest 5% of the Top to Bottom list.

MYTH: This is an effort to punish schools and give poor grades.

FACT: The current color system has over 90% of schools with a “yellow” or “red” label, which sends a confusing and negative message.  HB 5112 will change MDE’s “achievement gap” calculation and provides schools an appeals process.  And the new system will only be used for school buildings, not districts.

MYTH:  Michigan’s NCLB waiver, or federal funds, are at risk if HB 5112 is passed.

FACT:  MDE’s current NCLB waiver expires after the 2013-14 school year, and future waivers can include a letter grading system as a replacement for the color label system.  15 other states utilize letter-grading.

MYTH:  HB 5112 is being rushed and not necessary right now.

FACT: A bi-partisan legislative quality workgroup recommended the adoption of a school report card system in 2012. HB 5112 was introduced in October after a number of workgroup meetings.  The education committee has taken over a month of testimony on the letter grading issue.

MYTH: There has been manipulation of A-F letter grading in other states.

FACT:  The Indiana Department of Education adjusted their high school grading methodology once they learned new high schools without 12th graders were being penalized for not having graduation rate data.

MYTH: There isn’t anything wrong with the current color coded system of labeling schools.

FACT: A-F letter grading will make school performance data clearer for stakeholders, especially parents, and most school groups oppose HB 5112 while complaining about the current system.  A recent statewide survey indicates 79% of likely voters support A-F letter grades for schools.

Download the “Myths vs. Facts” as a pdf: A-F.Myths_vs_Facts.Dec2013

Click here for more information on A-F Letter Grading (HB 5112).