Advisory group continues work revising school grading model 

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RALEIGH — Attempts to redesign the way North Carolina K-12 public schools are graded continued this month. 

The advisory group set up to explore the topic, led by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s (NCDPI) Office of Innovation, involves dozens of individuals, including state officials and lawmakers as well as members representing education consultants and education nonprofits.  

“This process is really important, as it allows us to hear from many educators and school leaders across the state,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt said in a statement. “Importantly, we are starting to see some consensus and overlap among stakeholders on the indicators that should be included in the proposed redesign. The work ahead will encompass even greater stakeholder outreach as we continue to discuss possible indicators and seek feedback on emerging trends and themes.” 

The group’s primary focus is finding a way to represent school quality in a way other than the current and unpopular “A-F” grading system, and it is now exploring expanding the system to include more academic and nonacademic criteria. 

The current system was implemented by the General Assembly in 2013. The first school grades for the 2013-14 school year were released by NCDPI in 2015. At that time, Democrat June Atkinson was the state superintendent. 

Schools earn an overall numerical score on a scale of zero to 100 and a corresponding performance letter grade of A, B, C, D or F — hence the name of the current model.  

Under the A-F system, schools are assigned a letter grade based on two weighted metrics. Eighty percent is based on student achievement mainly involving test scores but also including advanced course participation and graduation rates. The other 20% is tied to academic growth.  

A statewide survey conducted in October by education site EducationNC in partnership with NCDPI showed 90% of respondents favored a model that includes more than test scores.  

The results were discussed at the advisory group’s Nov. 7 meeting.  

In addition to test scores, the top academic indicators deemed most critical to measure school quality by respondents included closing gaps, graduation rates, postsecondary pathways and courses offered outside of the core. 

For nonacademic indicators, respondents overwhelmingly said “durable skills.” Other top indicators included school climate, teacher effectiveness, work-based learning, as well as extra-curricular activities, intra-curricular activities and teacher attendance. 

“This work is important and exciting,” Deputy Superintendent Michael Maher said in a press statement. “We’re starting to get a sense of which indicators are important. This advisory group has rolled up its sleeves and is working hard to inform other leaders about this process and the goal of the work outside of formal meetings.” 

Maher went on to say the NCDPI team overseeing the work will travel the state over the course of the next month to meet with education stakeholder groups “to narrow down the possible list of indicators for inclusion in the model.” 

The advisory group’s next meeting will be in December, at which time feedback from stakeholders on the narrowed list of indicators will be discussed. 

About A.P. Dillon 841 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_