By Mike Baker and Donna Blankinship Associated Press
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday he is pushing lawmakers to continue working on a new system to give letter grades to schools and he wants that grading approach to be nuanced, but not so complicated that no one understands it.
Last week, Inslee shot down a Senate proposal to give A-F grades to schools, saying he likes the concept but not the execution.
Inslee discussed his ideas during a meeting with reporters. He wouldn’t give just one letter grade to each school, as lawmakers have proposed. He wants to see schools get grades for various things, including graduation rates and test scores.
Inslee said he wants parents to be able to see letter grades for different school performance measures, but he opposed the idea of assigning schools an overall letter grade. He feared that overall grades may be used as a punitive tool, and he said a group of grades would give people more information, much like students get graded on different subjects.
“I’m for a richer evaluation system,” Inslee said.
Inslee said he remained interested in trying to get the bill approved this year, and he said discussions would be ongoing with lawmakers. He has said he would continue to work on the issue after the legislative session, if necessary, by directing the Student Achievement Council and the State Board of Education to work on it during the interim.
One of the governor’s issues with Senate Bill 5328 was the fast way the new system would be implemented. Under the Senate proposal, a school grading system would start in a pilot program this fall and be based on test scores, graduation rates, college readiness and other factors.
The governor would look at many of the same factors, but grade each of them separately.
The state Board of Education and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction have been working on a school grading system called the Achievement Index for several years. One of the main differences between the two ideas is the letter grades would replace labels like “struggling.”
The governor also has alternatives to other school reform ideas coming out of the Legislature, including helping kids learn to read by the end of third grade. He wants to put more money into reading help, as well as preventing dropouts and establish a statewide system for turning around failing schools.