During his State of the State address in February, Governor LePage announced that Maine will introduce a school performance grading system to simplify for parents, taxpayers and others how their schools are doing. Many of you have expressed interest in and concern about how we will generate the grades, and what we will do to support schools that receive low grades.
We’re getting ready to roll out this A-F grading system at the end of the month, and in the coming days we’ll be providing schools with a preview of their data so that they can ask questions and be prepared to speak with their communities about it.
The fears are understandable. No one score or grade tells the whole story of a school. That’s why our grading system will be based on several factors, including student achievement, growth in achievement, and the performance and growth of the bottom 25 percent of students – to ensure that we are looking at all students. In high school, we’ll also factor in the graduation rate.
What we find now is that we have lots of pieces of data that come out throughout the course of the year, including NECAP test scores, science test scores, SAT scores, federal AYP status, AP participation, graduation rates and more. Each of these tells a different, sometimes inconsistent, story. And for each one, unfortunately, there are those who judge a school entirely on that one piece of data.
The goal of A-F grading is to give a starting point, a basic understanding of how a school is doing. When we talk about “priority” and “struggling” or “one-star” and “four-star” schools, it does not really give parents an understanding. For better and worse, A-F is clear. From that point, we hope people will dig deeper. We’ll be unveiling our Data Warehouse, with detailed info about each school, at the same time we make the A-F grades public. We hope people will use both – the letter grade overview, and the details that come with digging into the Data Warehouse.
In addition to sharing your data with you early – and it will all look familiar, it’s public data we’ve released as it came in – we will be holding webinars for superintendents at which we will explain the grading system, and we will tell you what our plan is, what we are going to say, and give you some tools for sharing the information with your communities.
We also have plans to support schools that are struggling. Until now, we’ve only been able to provide that kind of support for Title I schools, because of restriction on federal improvement funds. If the Legislature passes the provision in Governor LePage’s budget to include money for school improvement and support, we’ll pass the vast majority of that on to schools that are underperforming and use the rest to direct technical assistance to those districts.
I know you will all have tons of questions. We’ll be working feverishly over the next few weeks to develop comprehensive materials to support the rollout and support you and your schools.