Plan for grading schools gets OK
Posted: February 6, 2013
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — Area superintendents do not like the governor’s bill to grade schools on an A-to-F scale.
The measure won General Assembly approval Tuesday as Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling cast the tiebreaking vote to pass the bill in the 40-member Senate, according to the Associated Press.
The House of Delegates approved the proposal Monday.
The bill — which will become law once it is signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell — will require the Virginia Board of Education to grade each school on a scale of A-F, in addition to the more detailed accreditation standards already given.
McDonnell said the legislation will make it easier for parents to understand a school’s performance and encourage their involvement in schools.
Clarke County Superintendent Mike Murphy called the measure redundant.
“Now we’re going to have one more system,” he said.
A second bill will create a statewide school district, called the Opportunity Educational Institution, which will have the power to take over chronically failing schools from local school divisions and put them under state control.
“They’ve started to enable the privatization of Virginia education,” Murphy said. “They’re selling Virginia education to the highest bidder. I think that’s wrong.”
If the A-F grading system were currently in place, 38 of the state’s more than 1,000 schools would get a failing grade, according to the Associated Press.
“I don’t like it,” said Rick Leonard, Winchester Public Schools superintendent, about the state control. “I’ve always been a proponent of more local control. I don’t think this helps in the process of improving a school or schools in general.”
Leonard said he also believes the current accreditation system suffices.
Critics of the bill say an A-F system in addition to the current rating systems will be confusing for the public, as a school could be fully accredited and earn a C grade.
Also, measuring school success can be complicated, and an A-F system might be too simplified.
“I just believe it does not accurately reflect our work in our schools,” David Sovine, superintendent of Frederick County Public Schools, said at a School Board meeting on Tuesday.
There’s also a question why Virginia, which has a high-ranking K-12 public education system, would follow Florida and Louisiana — which have lower-ranked systems — in passing the bill.
“It would be a step backward, and in some cases more confusing,” Sovine said.
According to the Associated Press, Sen. Mamie E. Locke, D-Hampton, urged defeat of the bill.
“No school assesses a student’s overall performance with a single letter grade,” she said.
She said the legislation is based on the assumption that “people are too stupid” to understand the current system of rating schools as accredited, accredited with warning or not accredited.
Del. Joe T. May, R-Leesburg, and Del. Beverly J. Sherwood, R-Frederick County, voted in favor of the legislation. Del. Randy Minchew, R-Leesburg, did not vote.
State Sen. Jill H. Vogel, R-Upperville, also voted in favor of the bill.
The Virginia Association of School Superintendents and the Virginia School Boards Association are also critics of the bill.
— Contact Rebecca Layne at firstname.lastname@example.org