LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Michigan Representatives and educators gathered to consider the merits of repealing the A – F school grade standard to mitigate parent confusion when choosing schools and also aligning state grades with federal standards on the Michigan School Index system. 

Education Committee Chair and Representative Matt Koleszar (D- Plymouth) was the first to speak on behalf of his bill, advocating for removing the A – F school grading system of a school and simply keeping the school index system.  

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“School accountability is important,” Representative Koleszar said, “The A – F system that was passed in lame duck 2018 falls woefully short.  For starters, this rushed through at 3 am system does not meet federal standards.”  

Representative Koleszar praised the Michigan Index System, which 1 through 100 standards not only ranks schools in more areas, but also is federally approved.  Committee Member and Representative Brad Paquette (R-Niles) asked if there were repercussions for not meeting the federal standards. 

“Because we also have [a system] that meets federal standards, they don’t do anything to us,” Rep. Koleszar said, “The issue is when parents are looking for reports on  their schools, whether it be local schools or a different school, it’s often very confusing and very contradictory when you have two competing systems.”

Some officials from the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) also spoke in favor of the bill, including Dr. Sue Carnell, Chief Deputy Superintendent of the state, and Chris Janzer, Assistant Director of the MDE Office of Accountability. 

Dr. Carnell expounded on the eight categories of the A – F system in which schools are ranked: proficiency, growth, graduation rate, english learner progress, performance among peers, chronic absenteeism, assessment , participation, and subgroup performance on an annual basis.  In contrast, the School Index has eleven components that go beyond the categories contained in the A – F system according to Carnell. 

“Federal requirements specifically allow for one very limited exemption from state testing: English Language Learners in their first year in the US public school are allowed to skip the state’s English Language Arts assessment,” Janzer said, “All other students are required to participate in state assessments in the grade levels in which they are given.” 

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In contrast, the A – F system exempts all people eligible for special education programs and services from Michigan testing requirements, which violated at least two requirements in federal law according to Janzer.   

After their presentation, Representative Dylan Wegela (D-Garden City) criticized both school grading systems as flawed, but recommended there be only one grading system. 

“We’re looking at ways of measuring schools that include things like chronic absenteeism and standardized test scores, which are harmful measurement tools especially in districts of poverty,” Representative Wegala added, “I also think that families don’t look at schools to choose to send their kids from only on a statewide index score.”  

President of Michigan’s Charter School Association (MAPSA), Dan Quisenberry spoke alongside Vice President of School Performance at CS Partners, Ticheal Jones Ed.D. to discuss why this bill is so important to the 294 public charter schools throughout the state. 

“There are more aspects in [the bill] that we feel comfortable, more comfortable having an accountability system in state statute because we need to have something that is consistent and that’s not happened in Michigan,” Quisenberry said, “We’re neutral on the bill because there’s a lot of complicated moving parts we want you to understand that there are some unique aspects to this and we appreciate the opportunity to work with you to maintain something that is reliable, consistent, understandable, and actually help Michigan move forward.” 

The second to last group of speakers were the only ones to oppose the bill outright. 

“K-12 Education is a business issue and we stand together today opposing this bill not because we think the current system is perfect,” Government Relations and Public Policy work for the Detroit Chamber Brad Williams said, “But because we believe it represents an accountability system that is useful to parents, education, students, and community members- not perfect but at least useful.” 

“We should be working to improve our accountability system rather than disassembling it,” he said.