Just Eliminate The School Performance Grading System


A recent perspective from the 2019 NC Principal of the Year Matt Bristow-Smith in EdNC.org entitled “NC’s school performance grade model does harm to poor schools” is a crystal clear account of the stigmatizing effects of our current rating system. As a principal in a rural school system, Bristow-Smith thoroughly explains the blatant shortcomings of the system that people like Mark Johnson and Phil Berger have fought to maintain. It opens with this:


It is very much worth the read. And that persepctive is shared by a GREAT MAJORITY of people in public education.

From the January 2019 Public School Forum of North Carolina’s report on top ten issues in NC education:


Those school performance grades yielded the information shown in the graph above. School performance grades correlate heavily with poverty levels in schools. In fact, it almost is sure-fire measure of poverty rates. It’s been that way since the school performance grading system began. And NC is fairly unique in how it uses their school grading system.

From Lindsay Mahaffey, Wake County Board of Education – District 8 last January:

16 states

If NC is the only state that puts more emphasis on proficiency than growth and counts proficiency for 80% for a school performance grade, then NC weighs proficiency at least 30% more than the next ranking state. (Bristow-Smith made mention of Vermont’s SPG system having a similar emphasis on achievement as NC has. Vermont has a new system just put in place that is described below.)


For certain, North Carolina’s school performance grades are a confirmation that student poverty levels have so much to do with how schools perform.

The people who made the decision to institute and maintain the school performance grading system formula and still expand vouchers and rapid charter school growth ABSOLUTELY UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PROFICIENCY AND GROWTH. IT HELPS TO VALIDATE THEIR WANT OF MORE “REFORMS.”

What if in the school year 2019-2020, the school performance grade scale did shift from a fifteen-point scale to a ten-point scale. Do you know what that would have meant?


There would have been more failing schools. This comes from a legislative body that endorsed the state board a couple of school years ago to institute a ten-point scale for all high school grading systems to help ensure higher graduation rates, but also wanted to shrink scales for those schools’ performance grades.

A legislative body that was elected with unconstitutionally gerrymandered maps.

NC still has policies that hurt the working poor and those in poverty (which in NC affects over 20% of students) and the refusal to expand Medicaid and the other policies that hurt poorer regions, it is almost certain that poverty will have as much if not a bigger role in the school performance grades released today .

Guess what else happened for 2019-2020?

Voucher expansion!

SECTION 6.6.(b) G.S. 115C-562.8(b) reads as rewritten: “(b) The General Assembly finds that, due to the critical need in this State to provide opportunity for school choice for North Carolina students, it is imperative that the State provide an increase of funds of at least ten million dollars ($10,000,000) each fiscal year for 10 years to the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Fund Reserve. Therefore, there is appropriated from the General Fund to the Reserve the following amounts for each fiscal year to be used for the purposes set forth in this section:
Fiscal Year Appropriation

2017-2018: $44,840,000
2018-2019: $54,840,000
2019-2020: $64,840,000
2020-2021: $74,840,000
2021-2022: $84,840,000
2022-2023: $94,840,000
2023-2024: $104,840,000
2024-2025: $114,840,000
2025-2026: $124,840,000
2026-2027: $134,840,000

For the 2027-2028 fiscal year and each fiscal year thereafter, there is appropriated from the General Fund to the Reserve the sum of one hundred forty-four million eight hundred forty Page 14 Senate Bill 257-Ratified thousand dollars ($144,840,000) to be used for the purposes set forth in this section. When developing the base budget, as defined by G.S. 143C-1-1, for each fiscal year specified in this subsection, the Director of the Budget shall include the appropriated amount specified in this subsection for that fiscal year.”

Read that first line again: “due to the critical need in this State to provide opportunity for school choice for North Carolina students.”

That “critical need” has been created in part by making sure that many schools look bad – i.e., school performance grades. Students who live in poverty in a state that refuses to attack the very issue of poverty will become potential targets for “reform” efforts.

Those are exactly the students who will be targeted for expanding vouchers and new charter schools, because the Opportunity Grants are supposed to help “low-income” students and newer charter schools are being created simply to provide “choice.”

Lawmakers and education “reformers” know damn well the difference between proficiency and growth – the less proficient public schools look in the eyes of the public through a lens that the NC General Assembly prescribes, the more growth for “reforms.”

This past Tuesday we as a state have started showing Raleigh that this system is unacceptable; we made sure that Mark Johnson will not help craft educational policy as a Lt. Gov. and that Craig Horn will not be State Superintendent.

Show up again in November.