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Adrian H. Wood, PhD

Ten Facts About NC’s Tricky Grading System

Ten Facts About NC’s Tricky Grading System

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 Adrian Wood Comments (0)


1. The NC General Assembly proposed House Bill 145 that would allow the state to CONTINUE to use the current 15-point grading scale that rates schools (NOT STUDENTS) on an A-F scale. If no action is taken, the scale will revert back to a 10-point scale at the end of this school year.

2. In 2013, the NC General Assembly passed the Excellent Public Schools Act which rates public, charter and alternative schools using the A – F scale below.
A — 85 percent and up
B — 70 to 84 percent
C — 55 to 69 percent
D — 40 to 54 percent
F — 39 percent and below

3. The General Assembly also determined how the score would be calculated. Test results account for 80% of the school’s grade and include measures such as the end-of-grade, end-of-course, graduation rate, and college/workplace readiness measures. School growth accounts for 20% of the weight of the grade which is measured by SAS’s program, EVAAS (Education Value-Added Assessment System).

4. The current method resulted in about 40 percent of 2,537 schools getting C’s last year, where the 10-point scale would have lowered the number of Cs to 19% and increase the number of Ds or Fs to 70%.

5. House Speaker, Tim Moore, said that the letter grades are a “recognizable” way of measuring schools. However, Superintendent Jim Merrill of the high performing Wake County School district said of the grading system, “It doesn’t even come close to informing parents and community what’s really going on in their schools.”

6. The current “performance”-based grading system doesn’t measure a school’s quality. Instead, the grades correspond most highly to poverty level. Last year, 80 percent of D or F schools in NC reported that at least 80% of their children qualified for free and reduced lunch. In schools where less than 20% of the children qualified for free and reduced lunch, the grade was an A or B.

7. The A-F school grading system penalizes schools who may exceed growth but still fall below proficiency. Schools who serve higher income children also get awarded higher grades because their test scores are higher. They may not grow, but are not penalized since growth is only 1/5 of the school grade. The current grading system does little more than label schools based on the family income of the students served. Only 7 Title 1 schools in NC received an A.

8. The solution is not about which scale is used, but altering the weight given. NC should give more weight to “growth” which is widely thought to be preferable to “performance.” Schools would be recognized for improvement among “low achievers” who may not be the best, but make great progress. Not to mention, push “high achievers” to continue improvement.

9. Last year, though NC distributed $14 million to teachers whose students excelled on end of grade tests, Superintendent Mark Johnson fired twenty nine educators who were provided assistance to North Carolina’s most struggling schools due to the budget. Though N.C. State’s Friday Institute found the state’s lowest-achieving schools had improved scores as a result of the transformation services and concluded that sustaining the improvements would require ongoing support, results were ignored.

10. Test scores, which count for 80% of a school’s grade, are linked to race.
For grades 3rd through 8th, 36% of children scored a 4 or higher (out of five). Of those, 64% listed as Asian, 48% white, 23% Hispanic and 17% black.


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