On a party-line vote, a Republican-controlled Senate committee this morning advanced legislation that would impose a system of letter grades to measure the performance of individual schools, despite adamant objections from educators who argued that the proposal was too simplistic to accurate measure school achievement.
The legislation (Senate Bill 1207) is part of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s education reform package. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, said the grading system would provide clarity and transparency to the school accountability measurements and accreditation ratings.
The Senate Education and Health Committee advanced the bill by a vote of 8-7, sending it to the full Senate. An identical measure (House Bill 1999) was endorsed by the House Education Committee on Wednesday.
Representatives of state teachers, superintendents and school board associations argued that an A-F grading scale would fail to provide an accurate measure of all the factors that go into assessing schools’ performance. And, they said, it would stigmatize schools that have mediocre or poor letter grades but are showing improvement.
“I don’t think our parents are unintelligent people who need to be given a simplified grade,” said Meg Gruber, the president of the Virginia Education Association.
Stanley said only 52 schools would have “D” or “F” grades under the scheme and that opponents seemed to believe “it is almost more preferable to hide a failing school from the public’s view.”
“Unfortunately, what I hear is ‘Grade the kids, don’t grade us,’” Stanley said.
– Michael Sluss