- Associated Press - Thursday, May 7, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A bill heading Thursday to the governor will keep North Carolina public schools graded on a curve for two more years under the state’s new A-to-F scoring system but doesn’t address changing the composition of the scores themselves.

The Senate unanimously approved a House measure that preserves a little longer the 15-point scoring system between letter grades used for the first time on new school report cards last year. The House passed the delay in March.

Current law tells educators to switch to a tougher 10-point scale starting this year, but the bill going to Gov. Pat McCrory keeps the current scale through the 2015-16 school year. Neither McCrory nor his office has expressed opposition to the bill.

If implemented, schools are expected to keep receiving As if they score at least 85 out of 100 points and Fs if they score below 40. With no changes, an F moving forward would have been less than 60 points and an A at least 90.

Last year’s scores meant 71 percent of the more than 2,400 public schools were given a grade got a C or better, while about 6 percent got Fs.

Republican lawmakers who sought the A-to-F scale say it gives parents and the public a better handle on how a school is performing. The old grading system labeled schools as schools of “priority” or “distinction.” Bill supporters argue extending the use of the current scale will provide better data longer to measure progress.

Some lawmakers and education advocates want to change the rules in which 80 percent of a school’s score is based on how students performed on standardized tests and 20 percent on the level of academic growth. A floor amendment offered by Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, would have made the scores a 50-50 composition between student performance and growth starting this school year.

Stein said more than 80 schools that received Ds or Fs last year but exceeded student growth expectations would have seen improvement by one or two letter grades had the components been equally divided.

“To consider those schools as failure is absolutely antithetical to what they are,” Stein said. Republican lawmakers used a parliamentary maneuver to block a vote on the amendment. Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, who initiated the maneuver, said parents he’s talked to thank him for the new scoring system and don’t have much negative to say about it.

The House passed by a wide margin last week a bill proposing to do exactly what Stein sought. Senate Republican leaders, however, sent the measure to a committee where legislation opposed by Apodaca and others often sit and are never debated.

During debate in another Senate committee this week that recommended the 15-point scale bill, committee co-chairman Sen. Jerry Tillman. R-Randolph, said the grades would be examined closely for the next year or two in determining how much academic growth should be incorporated.

“This issue is not dead,” he said. “It’s one that we will discuss for a while.”

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