Citing COVID, NC may not grade schools on their performance this year

·2 min read

Relief is on the way to allow North Carolina public schools to go without grades on their performance this year and to let Wake County keep a calendar used by 12 year-round schools.

The state Senate unanimously passed a bill on Tuesday that would waive the annual requirement that every public school get an A through F letter grade that is largely based on passing rates on standardized tests. The change does not affect the grades that schools give to students.

Senate Bill 654 now goes to the House. Sen. Deanna Ballard, a Watauga County Republican and the bill’s primary sponsor, said the bill was developed with the help of the House Education Committee leadership.

The “K-12 COVID-19 Provisions” bill addresses some of the challenges the state’s public schools faced a a result of the pandemic. Most students have received only limited in-person instruction this past school year.

Unlike last school year, though, the U.S. Department of Education is still requiring states to give standardized tests as a way to see how individual students are doing.

But the State Board of Education is asking the General Assembly to waive the school performance grades for the second year in a row. State officials say this year’s test results may not provide an accurate impression of how a school is performing, especially as more students than normal will skip the tests this year.

Fix for Wake’s year-round schools

The legislation includes wording requested by the Wake County school system to clarify the definition of year-round schools.

In year-round schools, students get short breaks throughout the school year instead of a long summer vacation. Wake uses two kinds of year-round calendars. In the multi-track year-round calendar, the students are split into four groups called tracks that follow their own schedules. In the single-track calendar, all the students follow the same schedule. They’ve generally used track 4.

Wake school leaders say they need this permanent legislative fix to keep their 12 single-track year-round schools on track 4.

Based on the pending legislation, the Wake County school board was scheduled to vote Tuesday on a 2021-22 schedule that keeps the 12 schools on track 4. If the legislation isn’t approved, Wake is looking at a new schedule for those schools that would disrupt previously adopted plans for families and school staff.

Under the Dome

With the start of the new year and a new legislative session, The News & Observer has launched a new Under the Dome podcast. We’re unpacking legislation and issues that matter to keep you updated on what’s happening in North Carolina politics twice a week on Monday and Friday mornings. Check us out here and sign up for our weekly Under the Dome newsletter for more political news.

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