Michigan ditches A-F letter grade system given to public schools

Michigan will ditch a system that gave A-through-F grades to public schools each year after state education officials called the system overly simplistic and a duplicate of federal requirements.

The Michigan School Grades System, which was narrowly passed in 2018 by the Republican-led Legislature, assigned each public school in Michigan letter grades and rankings based on the school’s annual performance in five categories.

It was repealed under legislation signed Monday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who said in a statement it added "burdensome requirements" to schools.

The grading system had received bipartisan pushback since it was pushed through in 2018 during a 17-hour lame duck session by the GOP-led Legislature and Republican former Gov. Rick Snyder. The Michigan Department of Education, who creates the rankings each year, said it was "not necessary," due to other assessments already in place.

The state Department of Education is federally mandated to publish school index reports each year that assess schools graduation rates, student growth and other metrics on a scale of one to 100. Michigan also currently publishes an online "parent dashboard" that shows how schools fare on indicators in comparison to similar schools and the state average.

"Schools are complex, and what educators do daily for children is as well. It distills poorly into a letter grade system," State Superintendent Michael Rice said in a statement supporting the repeal.

The bill repealing the A-F grades for schools received bipartisan support in the state Legislature earlier this month. Democratic state Sen. Dayna Polehanki, who is a former teacher, said the "educational community has been asking for this," and that the index reports and parent dashboard are a "far superior," way of assessing schools.

Republicans who opposed eliminating the A-F grading system said the parent dashboard was too confusing and that the report card-style grading was easier to understand.