LANSING (AP) Six months after scrapping a school accreditation plan because it focused too heavily on test scores, Michigan Superintendent Tom Watkins introduced a new plan yesterday that would grade schools on performance beginning in 2003.

“We grade our students. Ultimately we”re going to grade our schools,” Watkins said. “Everybody knows what an “A” is.”

The new plan would still focus heavily on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests. But it also would measure family involvement, teacher development time, attendance, graduation rates and other variables.

The plan is a long way from becoming reality. After a series of public hearings, the State Board of Education is expected to vote on the plan in February. Schools would receive interim letter grades an A, B, C, D or F in the spring of 2003 and final grades in 2006, officials said.

That”s too long for many critics, who question why Watkins scrapped the accreditation system adopted by the Board of Education in 1999.

Under that plan, schools would have failed to earn accreditation if fewer than 25 percent of its students met or exceeded state standards in at least one MEAP content area. Schools protested the plan last spring when they found out that hundreds would lose accreditation.

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