OLYMPIA — If you’ve been following Gov. Jay Inslee’s position on a Republican proposal to grade all public schools A-F, we’ll excuse you for being a little confused.
The gist of the debate: Schools are already evaluated in adjective form in the state’s achievement index, but some say the adjectives (exemplary, very good, good, fair and struggling) are not clear enough.
Inslee said during last fall’s campaign he wanted to increase public accountability by giving all schools a letter grade based on student performance and other factors.
But last week, Inslee told some lawmakers he opposed a proposal to do just that, Senate Bill 5328. His spokesman told me that the idea needed to be studied more, and his chief of staff said the governor’s goal of accountability might be achieved without a letter grade.
On Tuesday, the governor added more details in a meeting with three reporters who have been covering the issue.
Inslee said he would sign a school grading bill this session — if it meets some conditions.
First, the governor said, each school shouldn’t receive one A-F grade but five of them, based on different factors — progress in closing the achievement gap, scores on state tests, school performance relative to similar schools, graduation rates and college and career readiness.
Parents should weigh those grades themselves, Inslee said.
The system must acknowledge differences in student learning, including English language learners, students with disabilities, poverty and demographic situations, the governor said.
The grading system must be created with stakeholder input, he said.
And it must come with funding for schools that get low marks, he said.
Inslee said he conveyed those parameters to lawmakers in an email and face-to-face meeting this morning.
In fact, the governor said he’s been clearly communicating with lawmakers on the issue for awhile. He insisted to the reporters that “I don’t feel like I changed a position here. I feel like I’ve been consistent in wanting to have a meaningful system done right, not just any ol’ thing you slap an A-F on.”
Inslee said he hasn’t been as clear with the media.
Here’s what he said in response to my question about his lack of specificity:
“We have not been as specific with you, or any of the other writers here at the table, or anybody else with the public media, 1st Amendment empire…Had I not had a few other things on my plate, we would’ve provided more clarity. I wish we had given you more clarity earlier.”