News Story

Failing Schools Able to Mark Themselves Up to a Passing Grade

One-third of statewide school report card deals with paperwork

Every year, newspapers across the state print the report card that the state of Michigan gives its public schools for parents to see how well their children’s schools are doing.

But what the articles don’t tell readers is that many districts with failing marks in student achievement are allowed to give themselves a score of 100 percent for completing a report on how it plans to improve itself. In many cases, that self-reported “A” inflates would-be grades of “F” to a passing grade.

Schools across the state get an automatic “A” for filling out a report on “indicators of school performance.” The report focuses on the school’s plans for self-improvement. The automatic “A” accounts for one-third of the school’s Education YES! state report card grade.

In August, the Lansing State Journal published all the EducationYes grades for the schools in Lansing Public Schools.

The newspaper article cites Sheridan Road School with a grade of “C.” However, Sheridan Road School had an “F” in Reading and an “F” in Mathematics in its only grades on student achievement. But with the help of the automatic “A,” the school ended up with a “C.”

Newspapers across the state publish the report cards with the inflated grades. MLive listed the grades of hundreds of schools.

In the Grand Rapids School District, Congress Elementary was given a “C.” It got that passing grade despite getting “F”s in Reading and Mathematics — the only two areas of student achievement that were measured.

"Who is helped by this?” said Michael Van Beek, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Van Beek said the system only helps districts that are failing in student achievement hide their grades.

"Parents aren’t helped by this because they don’t get an accurate assessment of how their school is performing,” Van Beek said.

Although plans for self-improvement are important, they should not carry nearly the same weight as student achievement when it comes to determining a report card grade, Van Beek said.

Two years ago, Michigan Capitol Confidential reported on a similar problem. At the time, a Michigan Department of Education spokesman said the automatic 100 percent grade was only for one year and that a new system would change it.

The MDE spokespeople didn’t return requests for comment on why a new system hasn't been implemented. The superintendents in the Lansing and Grand Rapids schools didn’t return emails seeking comment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.