Michigan considers A-F grades for schools

Michigan to consider grading schools from A to F after criticism of new color-coded system


LANSING — Green is a great school. Red is a bad one. Lime, yellow, and orange are in-between.

Michigan’s new color-coded school accountability system already could be up for an overhaul just two months after its debut.

Some lawmakers say schools should get A-F grades just like students do, so parents and others can easily understand.

“It’s not clear, it’s not concise, and it’s not transparent. Nobody knows what a lime green means, but everybody knows what an A means,” said House Education Committee Chairman Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R., Alto), who plans to introduce a bill to switch to letter grades.

Letter grades seem intuitive on their face since schools are used to evaluating students with letter grades. The tricky part is determining how the rankings are calculated.

Ms. Lyons’ bills would do more than change the performance scorecard from colors to letters. She said she wants to change the formula so that grades “accurately reflect” schools’ quality.

In the 2012-13 scores released in August, some schools were rated red despite being seen as traditionally high-performing, while other schools got green scores despite having no performance data because they were new, according to critics.

Another complaint is that Michigan’s separate top-to-bottom percentile ranking of schools, which is part of its accountability system under a waiver from federal no Child Left Behind requirements, closely correlates with student poverty rates. And others complain that the top-to-bottom list and separate color grades are not aligned, causing confusion.

One goal of the House bills is to eliminate the top-to-bottom ranking and replace it with A-F grades so there is a single system. That does not mean that designations such as “reward,” “priority,” and “focus” schools would go away because they are in the state’s waiver to the U.S. government.

But priority schools in the bottom 5 percent and subject to state intervention could be “F” schools. Reward schools in the top 5 percent could be “A” schools.