Like kids, schools will get letter grades

Students will not be the only ones who may dread showing their grades to parents. Starting in 2014, each Virginia public school will get a very public letter grade ranging from A to F.

On the last day of the legislative session, the General Assembly passed a bill creating a system to rate each school on an A-to-F grading scale based on student performance.

The final version of House Bill 1999 was approved on a 22-17 vote in the Senate and a 65-31 vote in the House. This version had been negotiated through a conference committee of members from both chambers.

One difference between the conference committee’s report and the original draft of HB 1999 involves when the schools will receive their first letter grade.

In the original bill, schools would have been assigned a letter grade by October 2013. The grade would have been based primarily on state accreditation ratings and would not have taken into account students’ educational growth.

Under the adopted version, schools will not be given a grade until October 2014 after the Virginia Board of Education establishes standards to measure student growth.

Students’ academic growth will be based on statewide tests and school test scores. The numbers will be compared with scores from previous year scores and statewide averages.

The Virginia Association of School Superintendents has concerns about the grading system. It takes away the constitutional power of the cities and county governments to manage their own educational systems, said Pat Russo, president-elect of VASS and superintendent of Henrico County Public Schools.

VASS is concerned that if a school gets an F, it will be placed under state authority – usurping local control.

However, Gov. Bob McDonnell believes an A-F grading system will allow for more transparency about the performance of Virginia’s schools. McDonnell received support from two prominent Republicans – Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush – who had implemented such systems in their states.

HB 1999 was sponsored by Delegate Thomas “Tag” Greason, R-Lansdowne.
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