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A bill slapping letter grades on Michigan schools is closer to becoming law

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

A state House committee has approved a bill creating an “A thru F” grading system for Michigan schools.

The billapproved by the House Education Reform committee would use existing criteria to create a letter grade system for evaluating schools. HB 5526 now moves to the full state House.

The system created by the bill would look at student proficiency in mathematics and English language arts, academic growth, graduation rates, and other factors.

“When you don’t have an accountability system, nobody’s accountable,” says bill sponsor Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw). “I think this will provide a backdrop or infrastructure for accountability.”

Kelly, who is the chairman of the House Education Reform committee, made some changes to the bill to address some concerns raised by Democrats and some school groups.  

The bill passed the committee along largely party lines, with 10 Republicans voting in favor, three Democrats opposed, and two Democrats passing.

Bill Sowerby was among the three Democrats voting against the bill. The Clinton Township representative says he voted against the bill because he doesn’t think it adequately addresses the needs of economically disadvantaged school districts.

“It gives stigmas to the students, stigmas to the parents, teachers that are in those lower graded school districts,” says Sowerby.

Charter school groups support the bill.

“Each and every Michigan child is held to an A to F standard, with an eye to improving and growing over time,” says Jared Burkhart, executive director of the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers. “It just makes sense to hold our schools to the same type of measurement and accountability.”

The Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, opposes the bill. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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