Speaking Out on State’s New A-F Grades for Schools

New policy punishes schools for poverty, state’s lack of funding

In yet another push to privatize the state’s system of public schools, the Lee Administration this week released its A-F letter grades for schools. Each public school in the state was assigned a grade of A-F based on criteria that heavily emphasizes the results of state testing.

Schools receiving D and F grades may be subject to audits or called before a state committee to discuss corrective action.

Of course, that corrective action is not likely to include an investment of state funds. Tennessee continues to be in the bottom 10 in the country in school funding and underfunds schools by nearly $2 billion annually.

While the policy was passed in 2016, it is going into effect this year – just ahead of Lee’s push for a program of universal school vouchers.

As the scores were released, opponents of the effort spoke out.

Senate Democratic Leader Raumesh Akbari and the Tennessee Education Association both raised concerns about the implications of the policy.

“These letter grades don’t help students, and they don’t provide clear and concise information that is useful to parents,” said TEA President Tanya Coats.

“These flawed letter grades will never define a school, their students and families, or their teachers and staff. What these letter grades do show is the consequences of bottom 10 in the nation student funding and a failure by the state to move resources to the students who need them most.”

I wrote several years ago about the correlation between the state’s TCAP testing scores and poverty rates.

The A-F scores tell us which schools may need more help – and they tell us that we’ve not done a great job of adequately funding public education. They also tell us that the state allows poverty to persist – in spite of having billions of dollars in various reserve funds.

Oh, and since the grades are based on the results of state tests, it’s worth noting that Tennessee’s track record of testing is abysmal.