ACS urges lawmakers to repeal new school grading system

The Arlington school board passed a resolution at its Nov. 15 meeting, urging state lawmakers to repeal legislation that mandates assigning letter grades to Tennessee schools.

Passed in March 2016, House Bill 155 and Senate Bill 300 directed the Tennessee Department of Education to develop a grading system for assigning letter grades A through F on the State Report Cards for Tennessee schools, starting with the 2017-18 school year.

The board’s stance is that the letter grading system will be “grossly misleading to the public and will oversimplify the link between poverty and low test scores, thus stigmatizing low-performing schools that receive Fs, as well as the students who attend them.”

The board explained another objection: This school year is already set to be a transition year for the Tennessee DoE to seek input for developing an accountability system for federally mandated Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requirements, and it is now additionally tasked with developing a letter grading system at the same time.

(Background: After operating under federally mandated No Child Left Behind guidelines, Tennessee received a waiver of those standards and adopted Race to the Top guidelines, which were subsequently replaced by the new federally-mandated ESSA in an effort to close achievement gaps for economically disadvantaged students.)

The board’s resolution also noted that letter grading for schools has been disruptive elsewhere. Virginia recently adopted its own letter grading scale for its schools, and its superintendents have already challenged it as being unsound and unfair.

Budget changes

The board also ratified the addition of $327,071.77 to its 2016-17 budget for additional instructional equipment, staff development, certified substitute teachers, educational assistants, special education equipment, transportation equipment, and other costs. See details online at; select “Supporting Documents” for the Nov. 15 meeting.

Other business

The board also passed routine measures on the consent agenda, including policies on insurance management, student insurance, summer school, homebound instruction, extracurricular activities, interscholastic athletics, field trips/competitions, textbooks, instructional supplies, intellectual property, school and district websites, school volunteers/non-faculty coaches, the Pledge of Allegiance, vacation and holidays, staff time schedules, solicitations, student assignments, transfers within the system, hazing, dress code, physical exams and immunizations, the safe relocation of students, special education students, homeless students, the superintendent’s evaluation tool and the recognition of religious beliefs, customs and holidays.

In other routine action, the board rescinded various policies because state statute now governs the area exclusively or the content is already covered in another overarching policy. These include former school district policies on instructional goals, curriculum development, basic program, special education, instructional materials, employee-developed materials, the use of multimedia, community instructional resources and student goals.

Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to