Most of Calhoun County’s schools rated a C or above in Alabama’s first letter grades for schools, released online this week by the state Department of Education.

Educators had long criticized the state’s plans to assign each school a letter grade, but Calhoun County Schools Superintendent Joe Dyar said this year’s grades might prove useful.

“I think the report cards are somewhat fair, and I think there’s some information we can use,” said Dyar, whose school system rated a B overall.

The state as a whole got a C in the report card, which lawmakers approved in 2012 to give parents a clearer summary of how schools are performing. The letter grades never won the support of many educators, however, who said a simple letter grade doesn’t capture the full picture of a school’s situation.

“A hungry child taking a standardized test will not perform as well as a well nourished child,” Sherry Tucker, president of the Alabama Education Association, was quoted as saying in a prepared statement after the grades were released. “A child who must miss school to stay home and take care of his siblings cannot be scored as failing.”

The grades come as the state leaves behind the No Child Left Behind era without a clear sense of how schools will be judged in the future. Under NCLB, schools were required to make “adequate yearly progress” toward the goal of making all children proficient in academic skills, but the federal government abandoned the law as increasing numbers of schools failed to meet those goals.

The state has switched standardized tests twice in the last few years.

Dyar said Calhoun County can still use the reports to make some improvements. He said one of the county’s weak spots was “college and career readiness” — a grading category that measures how many high school students have scored well on college placement tests, entered dual-enrollment college classes, joined the military or otherwise shown evidence that they’re ready for the post-school world.

Attempts to reach superintendents of the county’s other school systems — Anniston, Jacksonville, Piedmont and Oxford, were not successful Thursday.


Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.