Wednesday morning the Senate passed SB 5328, which would create a pilot program to implement Governor Inslee’s A through F school grading proposal by giving letter grades to schools in five school districts. School grades would be based on the State Achievement Index and on schools’ progress towards improvement. The bill passed 26 to 23.

Senator Litzow (R-Mercer Island), the prime sponsor of SB 5328, said: “This bill is about creating an easily understood and transparent accountability system that is clear to every parent…. At the end of the day, this is about clarity and transparency for parents. Everyone understands it. What we have now is a murky description which does not define the difference between Good and Very Good, between Fair or Struggling.”

Proponents argued that letter grades for schools would create public pressure on the schools to to be more accountable to parents and taxpayers. Senator Smith (R-Colville) said: “Labeling schools as a D or an F will provide a great impetus for them to improve.”

Senator Tom (D-Bellevue) read from Governor Inslee’s statement last year describing his school grading proposal:

“We have a quarter of our children who are sort of forgotten children, and that is going to be unacceptable when I’m governor. That’s one of the reasons I’m proposing (that) every school will have a letter grade that will be given and disseminated then to the parents in the district so that we hold ourselves accountable.”

Senator McAuliffe (D-Bothell), former Chair of the Senate Education Committee, led the opposition to the bill. The main argument of opponents was that giving schools letter grades could hurt the feelings of some of the adults working in public education.

The purpose of the public schools is to serve children, not make adults feel comfortable. A good education develops the whole child, and provides children the skills and knowledge they need to prepare for the future. Too many children are not receiving the education we have promised them. Over one-third, 34%, of schools received a dismal “Fair” (D) or “Struggling” (F) on the State Board of Education’s latest Achievement Index. In passing Inslee’s school grading idea Senators were thinking about the welfare of children first, not the bruised feelings of some adults, and working to make sure every child has access to a good education.


[Reprinted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog]