Iredell-Statesville Schools would prefer that the state not label its schools or control its calendar, and on Monday, the board of education passed resolutions essentially asking the General Assembly to back off.
There were two resolutions directed at state policies that both passed unanimously during Monday’s public meeting: first, asking the state to reconsider its plan to give schools a grade of A through F based largely on test scores; and second, requesting local control of the school calendar.
The two issues have been brought up repeatedly in meetings for the last two years. Administrators and board members believe the proposed grading system underemphasizes growth while disproportionately taking into account one test score, and that the current school calendar is detrimental to learning because it forces students to take first-semester exams after winter break.
Several school systems across the state have been passing the same resolutions in the last month as public schools look to have a strong voice when legislators gather in the spring and summer for work on a two-year budget.
The A-F grading scale has been proposed by the state as a simpler way to determine how schools are performing. But the grades will be based primarily on how students perform on certain state-made tests, with only 20 percent of the final grade determined by yearly growth. The concern is that parents will only see a letter grade of, for example, a C or D in a school with high-poverty levels, and wrongly assume no quality instruction is occurring.
“The year-long measure of educational success that a child attains is the best indicator of the overall quality of instruction provided to that student,” reads the resolution.
Control of the school calendar has been an issue since 2004, when the General Assembly mandated that schools start Aug. 25 or later and close June 10 or later. According to the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, the move was a reaction to “concerns by resort communities regarding earlier school openings, which in turn shortened the summer vacation season and reduced the teen labor force for the service industries.”
I-SS’ board members have long complained that their calendar is restricted because counties want more tourism and vacation dollars, and not sound educational policy.
Allowing districts to start school the first or second week of August would mean first-semester exams could be held before winter break, which officials have said is much better for students. Taking two weeks off and then being tested leaves open a lot of potential for forgetting information, officials said, which in turn lowers test scores and hurts a school’s overall grade.