Report cards on schools engage parents in education reform

January 4, 2019 | The Hill

In many places, education reform has migrated from the front pages to inside space. The momentum to create far-reaching initiatives has exhausted citizens and policymakers alike. But there’s still a need for a system that provides parents and educators with clear, useful signals of school quality.

In the waning days of the 2018 legislative session, Michigan became the 16th state to adopt A-to-F school letter grades, by approving House Bill 5526. The Great Lakes State is the latest to follow a path forged by Florida’s vigorous education reform efforts under former Gov. Jeb Bush. Significant improvements on national math and reading tests followed Bush’s slate of reforms. Michigan, losing ground on the same tests, has fallen behind Florida and most other states.

Michigan’s new accountability law differs from its 15 predecessors on one key point. Rather than receiving one overall grade, Michigan public schools will get a report card that looks more like the one a typical student brings home. Five separate letter grades cover an array of measurements. One will assess how a school met fixed achievement benchmarks, and another how they helped students grow in their learning from year to year. A third will grade how a school stacks up against others with similar student demographics.

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