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Bill to scrap A-F school performance grading system sent to Whitmer

Back of a school bus

The Michigan Senate adopted a bill Tuesday to scrap the state’s A-through-F system to grade school performance in different subject areas.

The 20-18 party-line vote that sent the bill to Governor Gretchen Whitmer for her signature followed a contentious debate.

Republicans voted no. They say this will eliminate an easy-to-understand system that helps parents, students and the public get a sense of how schools are performing in different subject areas.

“We stand here today poised in this body to pass a bill that says our schools that teach our state’s children, that are paid for by state tax dollars cannot be subjected to the same type of scrutiny,” said Senator Ruth Johnson (R-Groveland Township).

Democrats argued the system can be misleading and is unnecessary.

Democratic Senator Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) said there are already better ways to measure school performance.

“What we’re doing here is doing what we were asked for by superintendents and school boards — the people that are working in our education system, and so I am pleased to support this, removing the duplicative process because we have transparency in the system with the parents’ portal,” he said.

Democratic Senator Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia), who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said the state has the Parent Dashboard for School Transparency operated by the Department of Education that’s reliable and easy to access.

She noted the A-F system does not meet federal standards.

“The A-to-F system is redundant to the school index system and pales in comparison in scope and precision,” she said.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.