Schools could get their own grading system

/ 15 February 2012 / jennifer

Erin Schmidtke, Session Daily, February 15, 2012 –

Minnesota school districts could soon find themselves receiving a grade from the commissioner of education.

The House Education Finance Committee discussed a bill that establishes a grading system, from A to F, which would evaluate schools based on student achievement. Rep. Pam Myhra (R-Burnsville) sponsors the bill, HF638, which was laid over for further review.

Students’ proficiency and improvement on standardized tests, as well as growth in reading and math assessments would determine a school’s grade. For high schools, the grade would also account for SAT and ACT scores and participation in advanced programs like postsecondary enrollment options or AP courses. Evaluations would begin this school year.

These grades would have consequences. Schools that receive a D or F must develop and implement a process for improvement. Schools that receive an A, improve one letter grade or improve two in the previous two school years are eligible for a school recognition award of $100 per enrollee. That money could be used to pay for staff or educational materials.

Christy Hovanetz, a senior policy fellow at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, testified in support of the bill. She cited a similar grading system in Florida as an example of successful school evaluations.

Hovanetz said, “If we believe all students can learn, we should hold schools accountable for their academic success.”

Some committee members voiced concerns. Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) said, “I’m very much of the mind that just labeling schools, labeling teachers, labeling students, and if you don’t do anything about it, it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.”

Myhra emphasized the urgency for the bill, comparing problems in schools to cancer.

“Cancer, left undiagnosed and untreated, leads to death. And failure leads to death of opportunity and hope and the future of our children,” she said.

Sen. Dave Thompson (R-Lakeville) sponsors the companion, SF1302. It awaits action by the Senate Education Committee.

– Erin Schmidtke