UPDATE: May 23, 2023: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed HB 4166 into law Monday afternoon. With Whitmer's signature, Michigan will no longer use A-F grades to rank schools in its statewide accountability metrics.
- The Michigan Legislature voted to eliminate statewide letter grades for ranking public schools as an accountability metric with the passage of HB 4166 earlier this month. The bill is awaiting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s signature.
- A similar move to end A-F grades for rating schools and districts was signed into law in March by Utah Gov. Spencer Cox.
- Talks also appear to be underway in Oklahoma to rethink the state’s letter grading system for schools and districts, according to a report by The Oklahoman.
Recent state legislative moves show momentum might be gaining to roll back grading systems in statewide accountability measures.
As of December 2021, 11 states had A-F grading systems in their accountability measurements, according to the most recent data from the Education Commission of the States. Although the federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to report on school performance information, it does not specify what type of report card or rating system to use.
Michigan has two different accountability systems: an A-F system and a School Index Score. A state Senate analysis of the newly passed bill clarifies that the call for removing the statewide grading system comes as “some people believe that the A-F system is simplistic, punitive, and redundant when compared to the School Index Score.”
Utah Sen. Scott Sandall, a Democrat, said on the Senate floor that the measure was proposed as parental school choice options expand in the state.
“In discussions, it’s felt like that parental choice will eventually replace the need for that kind of transparency on a widespread basis, and that HB 215 is going to allow that kind of parental choice to negate what letter grades were in the past, and that transparency should be up to the individual parents” Sandall said.
Meanwhile, Utah State Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, a Republican, said A-F grades were the wrong way to measure school performance, because they “consolidated things and really did not give parents an accurate picture of what was actually going on in a school, because we would just label it with one letter rather than give the nuance of what makes up that letter.”
Still, other states are standing by such grading systems.
The Arizona House passed a bill in February that would double down on enforcement of its grading accountability system. HB 2291 would specifically allow a school board to terminate a district superintendent’s contract if one or more schools have received “D” or “F” grades for at least three years.
A 2020 report by the National School Boards Association found only about half of the states increased student achievement following enactment of an A-F accountability system. The study analyzed National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores in 13 states with such a policy.
These findings suggest state adoption of A-F grading policies for schools "does not increase student achievement as often assumed or intended, but rather yields seemingly random results,” the NSBA report said.