Whitmer Cuts ‘Red Tape’ in Ditching Letter Grade Ranking System for Michigan’s Public Schools

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reads to a classroom for Reading Month. (Governor Gretchen Whitmer via Facebook)

By Kyle Kaminski

May 23, 2023

A statewide ranking system that assigns letter grades to public schools in Michigan will no longer be used to judge their performance. But there’s still plenty of data available to help parents find the right school.

LANSING—Public schools across Michigan will soon no longer be assigned a letter grade or be ranked against other public schools based on the academic performance of their students.

New legislation signed into law on Monday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will officially repeal a statewide ranking system which uses test scores and other data to compare Michigan’s public schools and assigns them each an A-F letter grade based on their overall performance.

Whitmer said the state’s ranking system, while initially designed to help parents quickly identify high-performing school districts, had only created “red tape” for local schools. And assigning each school a letter grade hasn’t been the best gauge of their success, officials said.

Education officials have said the letter grade ranking system is overly simplistic and duplicative of federal requirements. The Michigan Department of Education, which creates the rankings each year, also said it was “not necessary” due to other assessments already in place. 

The department is already federally mandated to publish school index reports every year that assess graduation rates, student growth and other metrics on a scale of one to 100. Michigan also publishes an online parent dashboard that shows how schools fare on indicators in comparison to similar schools and the state average. State Superintendent Michael Rice said the addition of the letter grade system—which was put in place under Republican leadership in 2018—fails to grasp the complexity of assessing Michigan’s schools.

“Less is more with the repeal of the A-F system, which tried to create the false impression that rating schools was easy,” Rice said in a statement. “It isn’t. Schools are complex, and what educators do daily for children is as well. It distills poorly into a letter grade system.”

Democrats said getting rid of the ranking system will eliminate “burdensome” rules for school districts. State Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth) also said it will help teachers stay focused on individualized student learning instead of “duplicative and ineffective” school letter grades.

He added: “I am proud to get another law off the books that never served to help our students.”

Rice said that state data about school performance—like their rates of absenteeism and graduation rates—will still be made publicly available, like they were before the letter grade system was put into place. Instead of a grade, each school will still be assigned points.

A key distinction: This legislation only impacts the letter grade ranking system for public schools—not for students themselves, who will continue to receive letter grades in class.


  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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