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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Senate Republicans want to assign letter grades to Washington’s public schools

Wash­ing­ton State Sen­a­tor Steve Lit­zow (R‑41st Dis­trict; Mer­cer Island) has intro­duced a bill that would assign a let­ter grade to pub­lic schools and school dis­tricts in the name of “account­abil­i­ty.” High-per­form­ing mid­dle, junior high, and high schools would receive finan­cial rewards from the state.

Lit­zow’s pro­pos­al turns on its head the pol­i­cy of pro­vid­ing addi­tion­al fund­ing to low-per­form­ing schools with high-needs stu­dents. Schools fail­ing to make ade­quate progress would be assigned an “F,” rem­i­nis­cent of the much-reviled “No Child Left Behind Act” from the ear­ly years of the Bush error.

The stat­ed goal is to infuse per­for­mance-based pri­vate-sec­tor meth­ods into the pub­lic sec­tor as a reward for pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. The result would be to increase the fund­ing gap between the have and the have-not schools.

K‑3 schools would be grad­ed as feed­er schools, based on the grades of their mid­dle schools. Char­ter schools, very small schools, and alter­na­tive schools would be exempt from the pro­posed grad­ing struc­ture.

Let­ter grades would be based on their “account­abil­i­ty index” — a mea­sure of the increase in stu­dent achieve­ment on statewide stan­dard­ized tests — as well as the school’s reduc­tion in stu­dent achieve­ment gaps and, pos­si­bly, oth­er out­come mea­sure­ments. For high schools, at least 50% of the school’s grade would be based on the “account­abil­i­ty index” and the remain­der on grad­u­a­tion rates, advanced course­work such as AP and bac­calau­re­ate cours­es, post-sec­ondary readi­ness such as ACT or SAT scores and the high-school grad­u­a­tion rates of at-risk stu­dents.

School recog­ni­tion rewards would be used for fac­ul­ty and staff bonus­es, addi­tion­al equip­ment and per­son­nel and would not be sub­ject to col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing — essen­tial­ly mer­it pay for schools.

Schools that earn top marks would gain more con­trol over their bud­gets, as pro­vid­ed by sub­sec­tion sev­en of Sec­tion Two:

Each school that earns a grade of “A” under sec­tion 1 of this act or improves at least two let­ter grades shall have greater author­i­ty over the allo­ca­tion of the school’s total state bud­get includ­ing appor­tion­ment funds and state cat­e­gor­i­cal funds, as spec­i­fied in rules adopt­ed by the office of the super­in­ten­dent of pub­lic instruc­tion. The rules must pro­vide that the increased bud­get author­i­ty remain in effect until the school’s grade declines.

The bill is cospon­sored by two par­tial­ly con­ser­v­a­tive Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors: Steve Hobbs (Lake Stevens) and Bri­an Hat­field (Ray­mond). It also has five Repub­li­can cospon­sors: Andy Hill (45th Dis­trict; Red­mond), Pam Roach (31st Dis­trict; Auburn), Michael Baum­gart­ner (6th Dis­trict; Spokane), Bruce Dammeier (25th Dis­trict; Puyallup), and John Braun (20th Dis­trict; Cen­tralia).

SB 5328 is like­ly to be heard in the Sen­ate Ear­ly Learn­ing & K‑12 Edu­ca­tion Com­mit­tee (which Lit­zow now chairs, fol­low­ing the Repub­li­can takeover of the Sen­ate), on Jan­u­ary 30th. The hear­ing will be broad­cast live on TVW.

Should it pass in the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Sen­ate, it is unlike­ly to make it through the Demo­c­ra­t­ic-led House Edu­ca­tion Com­mit­tee.

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2 Comments

  1. Where did Lit­zow get the text of his bill from? It shares an awful lot of “DNA” with exist­ing laws that don’t work in oth­er states. So why should expect his laws work any bet­ter here in Wash­ing­ton?

    Com­pare Flori­da Statutes
    http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=1000–1099/1008/1008.html

    with Lit­zow’s SENATE BILL 5328
    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2013–14/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Bills/5328.pdf

    Use a piece of soft­ware called Win­Merge, an open-source pro­gram that can do file com­par­isons and merges.

    # by Konrad Roeder :: January 28th, 2013 at 2:06 AM
  2. The results are easy to pre­dict- the high per­form­ing schools are his­tor­i­cal­ly in the high aver­age fam­i­ly income areas of the state. The low­er the aver­age fam­i­ly income in a school dis­trict, the low­er the per­for­mance scores. Save some time and mon­ey; just pass a bill that gives mon­ey to Mer­cer Island, Red­mond and sim­i­lar school dis­tricts.

    # by Dan Olson :: January 31st, 2013 at 3:48 PM