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Bad grades guaranteed

Do you remember the report a few months ago about the Rowan-Salisbury School System having its first “A” school and improving school performance grades at several other schools? Well, brace yourself. Even if student test scores go up, state-assigned letter-grade scores are doomed to fall at many schools, thanks to another action by the anti-public education cabal now running the North Carolina General Assembly.

To date, those letter grades have been based on a 15-point grading scale, with a score of 85 to 100 getting an A, 70 to 84 getting a B and so on. Starting in 2018, the state will adopt a 10-point grading scale, with 90-100 earning an A, 80-89 getting a B, and so on.

Lawmakers will have to explain their motivations themselves. The end result, though, is to further stigmatize traditional public schools already struggling to raise student test scores — especially urban schools. The grades themselves are already skewed in a way that favors wealthy, well-educated neighborhoods. This further ramping up of grading pressure will only exacerbate that effect. It seems Republicans won’t be satisfied until “public education” is on par with “public housing” — used only by those in extreme need while everyone else pays their way to something better.

If the real purpose of the school performance score letter-grade system is to help families compare schools or school districts, the current grade structure, as unfair as it is, accomplishes that goal. Switching to a 10-point grade scale will just make public schools look worse — not exactly a step forward for North Carolina or our children.

Meanwhile, school systems across the state are struggling to figure out how to reduce the number of children per classroom in the lower grades — a change mandated by the state without the funding to make it happen.

The next cloud on the horizon is a Republican initiative to change the formula for public school funding. Considering GOP lawmakers’ willingness to turn over tax money to private schools in the form of “vouchers” and their partiality toward charter schools, this is troubling.  Charter schools were supposed to develop best practices, but lawmakers refuse to allow traditional schools to adopt the most basic reforms, such as setting their own calendar.

How much further will the people of North Carolina let the Republican majority go in undermining the state’s public schools? The General Assembly deserves an F on the grading scale that matters, effectiveness at improving North Carolina public education.

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