For a few years, parents in Minnesota got an annual snapshot from the state showing how well their kids were doing, school by school. The "star system" rated schools up to five stars.
That was on top of ratings required by the federal No Child Left Behind education law.
The state ratings caused a lot of hard feelings. While the system was easy to understand, opponents said it was only based on test scores, and it wasn't telling the whole story of what was going on in Minnesota classrooms.
So last year, lawmakers scrapped it.
State Sen. Sandy Rummel, DFL-White Bear Lake, was among them. She's authored a bill to replace it.
"The information can at times be misleading. It's partial information. It's good information, don't get me wrong, it's very good information," Rummel said. But, "people, parents, the public, they want to know more."
How much more is at the center of debate at the Capitol.
DFLers want the state to recognize when schools make progress, even if test scores don't measure up to benchmarks related to No Child Left Behind.
A pass-fail system is too blunt an instrument to tell what's working for kids, Rummel said. It doesn't tell if schools with students who started out behind are doing any good at all.
Rummel also wants to survey students themselves, asking them to rate how safe they feel at school and how well they related to their teachers, among other things.
The survey provision got dropped from her bill Wednesday morning. Opponents said schools have enough to keep track of already.
But Pawlenty administration officials say they remain concerned that lawmakers are trying to lower the bar against which Minnesota schools are measured.
Assistant Education Commissioner Chaz Anderson compares the new standards to grading on a curve.
"[It's] meausuring students against a norm, which is the state average," said Anderson. "And if the state average is not at proficiency, which is quite possible, then what we have is a false sense of security we're giving our public about the performance of schools."
Lawmakers and the Pawlenty administration are also at odds over the level of detail the state should weigh when rating schools.
Officials with the State Department of Education say test results can compare success on even a class-by-class basis, winnowing out exactly what's working and what isn't.
Teachers, though, have expressed concern that such information could be used to unfairly single them out.
They argue kids learn from any number of adults, be it parents or even football coaches. They say test results can't parse out who's ultimately responsible for success or failure.
So a provision of the bill now sets limits on how detailed the state analysis can be.
"If we drill down to the classroom level, we have a classroom size anywhere between 25 and 30 students," said Sen. Rummel. "For most people in statistics, that's too small a size to make a high-stakes decision."
But Gov. Tim Pawlenty hasn't backed down. He warned lawmakers about the report card idea at a recent press conference.
"We had, of course, our star rating system. That was featured over the last few years, as part of legislation that was passed and that was discontinued. But we are right now rebooting that process," said Pawlenty.
"It will happen in one of two ways," Pawlenty continued. "It will either happen through legislation that we can agree to and that I will sign into law, or if the legislation fails, then we will move forward administratively, and recreate a report card to our liking."
Parallel bills will be headed to the floor in the DFL-controlled house and Senate in coming days.