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Williamson schools closely watching legislation for new A-F grading system

Williamson schools closely watching legislation for new A-F grading system

Even though legislators and districts take issue with the implementation of a new A-F school grading system, the state could still stamp a letter grade on schools.

As written and passed by the legislature in 2016, new accountability standards that give letter grades to each school across the state should go into effect for 2017.

Majority Leader Rep. Glen Casada said in early January the implementation would be delayed. But that outlook has transitioned now, according to the district lobbyist Catie Lane Bailey. She has created a watch-list of bills for Williamson County Schools. In total, legislators filed 247 education-related bills statewide as of the end of last week. Last Thursday was the last day for filing.

“We’ve worked with the department since last May to come up with some language that we all thought we could agree on,” Bailey said. “It’s not going to be repealed” she said of the grading system for schools.

As designed by the Tennessee Department of Education, the new accountability standards derive from the Every Student Succeeds Act along with resolutions passed by the state legislature this past session. The state will give schools a letter grade from A to F, with each category broken down numerically to demonstrate where the state collected the grade.

House Bill 499 is trying to address some of the concerns had by many districts, much of which could change as it filters through committee. Freshman Rep. Sam Whitson (R-Franklin) is a co-sponsor of the legislation.

“They said the easiest way to do ESSA was marry their requirements together,” Bailey said. “What’s good in theory, isn’t always good in practice. They didn’t want to delay implementation.”

Four guiding principles went into the consideration of forming the letter grade: academic growth, achievement, absenteeism and student readiness upon graduation high school. More than likely, those principles will stay the same.

What could change is the A-F portion, which could be transitioned into the differentiation used in teacher evaluations.  That could mean using the language “above expectations” or “significantly below expectations.”

“We’ve been working in concert,” Superintendent Mike Looney said. “This is a good compromise position.”

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