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 replies on “Senate Republicans want to assign letter grades to Washington’s public schools”

  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

    with Lit­zow’s SENATE BILL 5328

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

  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.

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