The NASSP Board of Directors has stated its intent to adopt two new position statements on A-F school grading systems and online learning. The position statements outline guiding principles for NASSP’s advocacy and recommendations to federal, state, and local policymakers. Following a 30-day public comment period, the board will vote to approve the position statements at its next meeting in May. You can view summaries of the statements and link to them in their entirety below.

A-F School Grading Systems

The purpose of this position statement is to express opposition to A-F school grading systems and offer recommendations for state-designed accountability systems encouraging continuous improvement and supporting low-performing schools. Florida was the first state to adopt an A-F school grading system, and 15 other states have now adopted similar policies, despite little research on the reliability or validity of the measures. Case in point, researchers at The Education Trust found that a single letter grade for schools does not tell the whole story and can mask the low performance of certain student subgroups.

Rather than a single letter grade, we recommend developing report cards for schools and districts using multiple performance indicators over multiple years. And rather than punish low-performing schools, we suggest working with the school improvement team to develop a school plan prioritizing areas of improvement based on the results of a comprehensive needs assessment and capacity analysis.

Online Learning

Online learning continues to grow, especially at the high school level. Thirty states and Washington, D.C., now have fully online schools, while 20 states prohibit open enrollment in online schools. Twenty-six of the states offering online schools do so through a charter school model run by an online school provider. Online schools have the potential to offer an abundance of course options and flexibility to isolated students, but school leaders have expressed concerns that they have no purview over the content of the courses students are taking or the quality of the instruction. Blended learning, a combination of face-to-face and online learning, seeks to meet some of these challenges.

Our recommendation is that teachers should be provided professional development and training opportunities related to online instruction, including developing and customizing online courses and facilitating student engagement in an online environment. Additionally, we support the use of Title IV funding under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to support the effective use of technology, including professional learning opportunities for principals and teachers, efforts to build the technological capacity and infrastructure, blended learning projects, and distance learning programs.

If you have any comments or suggestions on these position statements, please submit them to Amanda Karhuse, director of advocacy, at [email protected] by Thursday, March 24.

About the Author

Amanda Karhuse is the Director of Advocacy at NASSP. Follow her on Twitter @akarhuse.

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