LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – The House voted to repeal Michigan’s A-F school accountability system after hearing two weeks of testimony from the House Education Committee.
By a margin of 18 votes, the House passed House Bill 4166 by 63 yes votes and 45 no votes to repeal the A-F system, leaving only the School Index System which grades schools on a 0 – 100 scale.
Education Chair Matt Kolescar (D-Plymouth) offered a statement before the house in favor of his bill.
“Michigan’s A-F law is the legislative equivalent of that project completed at the last possible second,” Representative Koleszar said, “First of all, let me be clear, Michigan already has a state accountability system: the statewide index.”
He called the A-F law duplicative, confusing, and not in compliance with the federal Every School Succeeds Act (ESSA), a federal law to make certain K-12 public school standards.
“It is way too focused on standardized data which has no bearing on what our schools are dealing with in our day and age,” Koleszar continued, “The A-F experiment has been nothing short of a disaster and I urge a yes vote to repeal it.”
Rep. Jaime Greene (R-Richmond), Minority Vice Chair of the House Education Committee rose advocating for a clear school ranking system.
“The A-F grading system was meant to provide parents with a simple method to understand how their local school’s performing,” Rep. Greene said, “There are many people who feel that A-F does not properly reflect a school’s performance. I have looked at the current MDE dashboard and I can say that as a parent, it is not clear how my local school is doing.”
Instead, she asked the legislature to vote against the bill as it would prevent parents from seeing “critical school performance information” instead of providing clear and easy to understand school statistics.
“It is time to stop ramming through legislation; legislating should be a deliberative process, so let us take the time to make a system that will works for our parents and our children,” Representative Greene said, “While I do ask for a no vote on House Bill 4166, so we can get this right for the people we serve.”
Earlier on Tuesday, the House Education Committee voted to advance House Bill 4166. The bill passed committee in a vote 8 to 5, and would remove the A – F system which gives a letter grade to a public school based on several categories to provide a picture of the school’s overall performance.
Opponents of the current dual system complain that the A -F system is unnecessary and isn’t in compliance with federal requirements, which the school index does comply with. Michigan Department of Education advocates for the removal of the system, and encourages parents to seek clarity at the Parent Dashboard for School Transparency.
Beth DeShone, Great Lakes Education Project Executive Director, a bi-partisan and non-profit advocacy organization supporting quality choices in public education for all Michigan students, called the bill anti-transparency legislation.
“It’s a push to sweep learning loss under the rug, and kids along with it,” Deshone said in a statement, “Beyond school report cards, this legislation would kill numerous additional transparency requirements designed to inform parents and policymakers alike. It’s a bill that will exacerbate inequalities, widen the learning gap, and disproportionately punish students in schools that struggle the most.”
At a previous Education Committee meeting, Committee Chair Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth) criticized the A-F System.
“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.”
President of Michigan’s Charter School Association (MAPSA), Dan Quisenberry expressed that he and other representatives from MAPSA liked some aspects of the bill, but would remain neutral overall.
“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.”