The state’s new grading system topped the discussion at the just completed statewide Superintendents Conference.
The Department of Education set to implement the system in November. It was mandated by the state legislature as a way to assess where schools stand in various area. The new grading system will assign A-F letter grades.
Van Buren County Schools Director Jared Copeland said the criteria of how a school will be graded is based on “growth and achievement”
“The school letter grade system is a federal mandate that our state department of ed. is trying to set policy and procedure on and how that will look for our schools across the state,” Copeland said. “It (the conference) was really just a time for school leaders across the state to give some opinion and some feed back on what that might look like when it rolls out this year.”
Copeland said the issue directors have, is that how the “growth and achievement” is measured is still unclear.
“It would be a state determination of what that would be and at this point we don’t know,” Copeland said. “It could be anything concerning graduation rate, absenteeism, achievement on TCAP tests, growth from tests, different factors like that will play what a successful school might look like.”
Copeland said another major concern of many at the conference, including himself, was the new grading system would unfairly grade less populated schools.
“The plan would be to hopefully find a model that represents us all well and that doesn’t weigh unevenly against a rural system or weigh unevenly against a larger system,” Copeland said. “Van Buren County obviously looks different than Metro Nashville and vice-versa. It was our concern that be a fair thing across the state regardless of size of county or student population.”
The school letter-grade system was originally supposed to be rolled out in the 2017-18 school year. The Covid-19 pandemic delayed that start date until now. Copeland said, he is concerned with the roll out date being so close without clear grading standards in place.
“It’s definitely always a concern, because you want things to work right off the ground,” Copeland said. “You don’t want to have go back on anything and readjust it. You want to get it right the first time. Of course that is not the decision of superintendents that’s the decision with the state department and the state board of ed. Its our voice of concern is we’d like to see right as much as possible when its rolled out. November is a quick turn around time, so we are waiting for more information to find that out.”
Copeland said he understands the federal mandate and the state need to hold schools accountable.
“I can speak for Van Buren County, and I would think everybody across the state, we don’t shy away form accountability,” Copeland said. “We want to be accountable to the citizens, to the students, to the families, but there are better ways to do that, to tell our story or paint our story in an accurate light. That’s just what we are trying to get to.”