I’ve received some comments about my blog post of yesterday that referred to grading schools A through F as “Governor Inslee’s proposal.” Last year, then-candidate Inslee proposed grading schools A through F. The bill this year, SB 5328, incorporating this idea and passed by the Senate yesterday was not formally proposed by the Governor; it was introduced by Senator Steve Litzow, chair of the Senate Education Committee.
This made me wonder whether Governor Inslee’s position may have changed. So I talked today to Jaime Smith, a spokesperson at the governor’s office, and asked, “Does the governor support giving A through F grades to public schools?” She said yes, adding, “Governor Inslee supports making sure that parents and community members have an easy-to-understand and transparent way to know how well their schools are performing.”
She also said the governor wants to be sure that the methodology for grading schools is fair. Good point. As a policy analyst I know that any assessment system is only as good as its methodology. In the case of SB 5328, the methodology would be provided by the State Board of Education through its widely respected five-level Achievement Index, which has been rating public schools for a number of years. The bill now goes to the House, where it faces some serious opposition. The WEA union has put it on its bills-to-kill list.
Hopefully House members of both parties will give Senator Litzow’s bill fair consideration. The idea of clear grades for schools is already helping struggling students at four elementary schools in Centralia — see full reports from The Chronicle here. The Superintendent there has directed the teaching staff to collaborate on learning improvements with their colleagues at nearby Edison Elementary which, despite its high-poverty student population, earned an Exemplary (A) ranking on the state Achievement Index.