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Do The Grades Hide CMS Failings?


For the first time yesterday, the state released letter grades for all the k-12 schools across North Carolina.

Senator Phil Berger, who was instrumental in passing the legislation requiring the grades, said that they are an important tool for parents, administrators, policymakers, and taxpayers.  I would tend to agree moreso if parents could then utilize these grades to make decisions about where their children attend school.  Sadly, far too many students are trapped in their local government school with very little choice.  They may learn their school is failing, but they have little recourse in the matter.

Grades for elementary and middle schools are based largely on standardized test results: 80 percent of the school’s letter grade reflects tests taken last year; 20 percent is based on how much students learned year-over-year a measure of student “growth.”

High school grades are based on standardized test results, graduation rates, and the percentage of students who pass Math III.

What is interesting, and somewhat appalling, is that the grading scale used in assigning letter grades to the schools isn’t your traditional 7 or 8 point scale. Nor is it the 10 point scale more common in colleges and universities.  (And what NC wishes to transition to for k-12.)

No, the scale used is a 15 point scale.

Mecklenburg Commissioner Bill James found this questionable.

According to James,

“The State of NC has assigned an overall test score for each CMS school. However the ‘letter’ grade is based on a 15 point scale and basically hides the extent of the failure. Under the current state guidelines an A is about 85, a B is above 70…. etc…

If you assign the traditional 10 point scale (90 to 100 is an ‘A’, 80 to 89 is a ‘B’, 70 to 79 is a ‘C’, 60 to 69 is a ‘D’ you are left with 64 or so schools that failed NOT the 11 listed in the media. The State for its part plans on moving to a ’10 point scale’ next year. The problem is much worse that it is being presented.”

James then took the grades for CMS and created a spreadsheet showing the grades as they would result with each of the scale types.  The result is that a significantly higher percentage of CMS schools did not “make the grade”.

You can click on each image to view the rankings.

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