City school officials have passed a resolution urging the state to axe a new rule that would require the Tennessee Department of Education to assign each individual school an A-F letter grade.
Meeting Thursday, the Greeneville City Board of Education was unanimous in approving the resolution, which will be presented to state lawmakers.
Earlier this year, the state passed rules requiring the Tennessee Department of Education to devise a system for assigning a letter grade to each individual school by the 2017-18 year.
Greeneville school officials are expected to discuss the issue further with legislators at the board’s annual legislative breakfast, being planned for this winter, ahead of the 2017 legislative session.
Director of Schools Dr. Jeff Moorhouse said a single A-F letter grade would not be an accurate reflection of the work happening in any school statewide, and could unnecessarily damage a school’s image.
“It is our belief that you can’t boil down what happens in a school to one letter grade,” Moorhouse said. “We have some schools that achieve higher, and we have some schools that have great growth. Just to say ‘This school is an A, and this school is an F,’ does not constitute the work that our teachers do.”
He added that it was unclear what criteria would be used to grade the schools and how it would be weighted.
Board members expressed concern that, in some cases, schools with high academic achievement could be given a poor grade because of other factors, like gaps in achievement between certain subgroups of students.
The resolution passed Thursday calls a letter grading system for individual schools “grossly misleading to the public” and says it would “oversimplify the link between poverty and low test scores, thus stigmatizing low-performing schools that receive Fs, as well as students who attend them.”
The resolution also calls on the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents and the Tennessee School Boards Association to actively lobby for repeal of the legislation requiring letter grades for schools.
Board members were unanimous in their approval of the resolution.
POLICY REVISIONS, MORE
The board was also unanimous in its approval of several policy updates on first reading.
Policy updates approved Thursday were:
• revisions to the attendance policy to comply with state regulations that call for several types of absences to be excused on a case-by-case basis,
• updates to the school admissions policy to reflect the Tennessee School Boards Association’s recommendations against requiring students to present a Social Security number to enroll in school,
• changes to the prevention and treatment of sports-related concussions policy to comply with laws stating that physician’s assistants are among health care providers that may evaluate and provide clearance to return to athletics, and
• revision of the homeless students policy to comply with the federal Every Child Succeeds Act.
In a report at the end of the meeting, Moorhouse announced that GCS will join “Homework Hotline” in January.
The service allows students to access certified teachers for tutoring between 5 and 9 p.m., free of charge, just by calling a toll-free number.
Moorhouse said the teacher-tutors have access to every certified textbook in the state, and have partnered with Belmont University to ensure enough tutors to handle a high call volume.