State Board of Education will reconsider new school grading system

Tim Carter, president of the State Board of Education, explains the apparent problems Monday in the new grading system for schools. Listening is Diane Douglas, the superintendent of public instruction, who also serves on the board. /Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services via Arizona Capitol Times

Facing a barrage of questions and criticism, the State Board of Education voted Monday to take another look at its new system for grading schools.

The unanimous vote means that some schools which found themselves with preliminary grades of D and F could move up. That’s important because parents use these grades to make decisions about where to send their children to school.

It could also mean more A grades. That, in turn, has financial implications, with those schools eligible for additional state dollars.

But a revamp may not create all positive results, with some schools potentially finding out that they are not performing as well — at least by state standards — as they had initially been told.

The move came amid questions about whether the data used to give out grades ranging from A to F is accurate. There also were issues raised about whether information was properly coded.

But many of the problems appear to be associated with the board’s decision on how much weight to give student improvement versus actual achievement.

That was inserted in a bid to ensure that lower-performing schools in high poverty areas had a chance to get high grades because their students were improving. But officials from some higher performing schools said that’s not fair to them because their students already were scoring at the peak and therefore have nowhere to go — and no way to earn improvement points.

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