The Board of Education of Oak Ridge Schools recently passed a resolution asking the Tennessee legislature to amend letter grading of Tennessee Public Schools. The Board of Education is committed to excellence in education and believes in accountability; unfortunately, assigning a letter grade on top of a very complex accountability system can misrepresent the performance of schools to the public. In the accountability protocol for the 2017-2018 school year, there are multiple paths to a grade for schools in every accountability category: achievement, growth, readiness, graduation rate, chronic absenteeism, and performance of English Learners. These multiple paths to a grade are true both for the All Students metric and for the Historically Underserved Student Groups metric, which therefore leads to a multitude of reasons that a school could receive an overall grade. This means that a “B” in a subcategory of achievement for one school would not necessarily mean the same as a “B” in a subcategory of achievement for another school, nor would an overall grade of “B” for one school have the same meaning as a “B” for another school. Despite these unlike meanings for the same grade, the public has an understanding that “A” means very good, “B” means good, “C” means average, “D” means poor and “F” means failing; however, the assigned grades under this accountability model would not necessarily mean these things. Another concern is that assigning grades could create a false sense of competition between schools in the same school district. The Board of Education of Oak Ridge Schools therefore urges the State of Tennessee legislature to amend legislation requiring letter grades and instead assign a performance level which maintains the accountability model, but which aligns to the district determination rather than letter grades. The Board of Education is convinced that the Oak Ridge community is capable of understanding accountability in its complexity and does not need a misleading sense of simplicity represented by letter grades placed on top of the complex model.
Explanation provided by Dr. Tracey Beckendorf-Edou