Misinformation about NC school grades dominates the airwaves–and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s Twitter account

Tuesday was a frustrating day for anyone with even a cursory understanding of education policy in North Carolina.  Despite his seat on the State Board of Education, that would apparently  not include our Lieutenant Governor, Dan Forest.

Here’s what happened.  On Monday evening Raleigh CBS affiliate WNCN published a story titled ‘NC General Assembly mulling over changing grading scales.’

To the uninformed, WNCN’s story made it sound like legislators were considering changing the way students are graded to make it far easier for students to pass:

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The North Carolina General Assembly is considering changing the grading scale used in state public schools.

Right now, anything less than a 60-percent mark is a failing grade. The new scale would change that to anything less than 40 percent.

The new scale would be:

  • A: 100 to 85 percent
  • B: 84 to 70 percent
  • C: 69 to 55 percent
  • D: 54 to 40 percent
  • F: Anything below 40 percent

Tuesday morning, other media outlets around North Carolina followed WNCN’s (mis)lead:

The story then spread to other states, with media outlets continuing to repeat the misinformation.  Public reaction was pretty much what you would expect, including plenty of insults about the low bar set by public schools.

Here’s the thing.  The legislation these news outlets were ‘informing’ the public about is HB 145.  HB 145 has nothing at all to do with grades students receive in schools.  The bill doesn’t even change anything about education policy in North Carolina.  All it does is extend the same grading scale that has been used to measure performance of our public schools ever since the Republican supermajority-controlled General Assembly introduced School Report Cards in 2013.  It’s also a move that was called for last week by Republican state superintendent Mark Johnson in his NC2030 plan:

For the news media to get a detail on education policy wrong and start a little brush fire with the public is annoying, but not all that rare.  However, for an elected official that sits on the State Board of Education to pour gas on that fire by using his platform to claim that we are lowering standards is highly unusual, as it appears to show either incompetence or a desire to unfairly disparage North Carolina’s public schools.  We should expect far better from our leaders.

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