Michigan Teachers, Parents and Students Deserve More Transparency

Educators carry one of the heaviest lifts in our communities shaping our leaders of tomorrow – and unfortunately, Michigan is on the brink of making that more difficult with legislation that fails to implement transparent performance measures that hold our school systems accountable. In honor of May’s Teacher Appreciation Month, we’re calling on Michiganders to advocate for policies that help support educators.

Michigan lawmakers have passed a bill that would repeal the current A-F letter grade system currently used by the Michigan Department of Education to inform the public of school building performance in all K-12 public schools. By repealing A-F, the state would be forced to use a convoluted index system that evaluates schools across various key performance indicators (KPIs) through scores ranging between 1 and 100, a tool that emerged from the federal Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015.

The goal of any school performance system should be to provide parents with a clear understanding of how their child’s school is performing. While the index’s KPIs measure growth and proficiency, the system is extremely complicated, and it’s unclear how scores are being calculated. It’s so complicated that our state developed a 32-page manual to explain how to interpret data produced by the ranking system.

For example, if a school has a quality index score of 77.3, the interpretation of that score is unknown. We know what has been measured, but we don’t know the weight assigned to each KPI to provide that output. Therefore, schools, teachers, and parents don’t know exactly how to target students’ needs.

The Great Lakes Education Project said that removing the A-F school report card is a step back, saying, “eliminating the requirement that the Department of Education informs the public about their local school’s performance further removes transparency and accountability for local bureaucrats, and disincentivizes reforms, changes, and funding decisions designed to boost student and school performance.”

Opponents of the A-F letter grade ranking claim that the system is oversimplified, but teachers and parents deserve clarity as opposed to opacity. It isn’t transparent – and without transparency, we can’t hold schools fully accountable. And when we don’t hold schools accountable, the liability of our students’ success falls solely on the backs of teachers, which isn’t fair.

The accountability of our students shouldn’t fall on teachers’ shoulders alone. It’s up to schools to equip teachers with the tools they need to help our students achieve academic success. In addition, parents deserve a ranking system that makes it clear how schools need to improve so they can help their children reach their full potential, and it’s our duty to advocate for policies that prioritize that.

Reach out to your local legislator in honor of Teacher Appreciation Month and let them know that we need policies that deliver accountability and transparency so our students can grow.