What Virginians don’t know about new A-F school grading system

Nov 24, 2013 by

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has now pushed through a new evaluation system that will assign A-through-F grades to each public school, based largely on students’ standardized test scores. The state Board of Education just approved criteria (see below) for the new scheme, which was part of the governor’s 2013 school reform efforts. What Virginians don’t know, because McDonnell hasn’t mentioned it, is that the system he used as a model for his plans is in tatters.

The system was pioneered in Florida when Jeb Bush was governor from 1999 to 2007 as part of Bush’s push for corporate-influenced, standardized test-based reform, and it was used as a model in some 15 other states. The scheme involves more than simply assigning grades to schools; high stakes are involved, as schools can be closed if they get too many successive low grades.

When McDonnell was trying to sell the grading system to the Virginia legislature earlier this year, he sought help from Bush; the former governor praised McDonnell’s plans in a teleconference, saying that the scheme had helped improve schools in Florida. In reality, the Florida system has been so plagued with problems that the Florida Association of District School Superintendents on Thursday urged state officials to revamp the system and released a proposal to eliminate the letter grades. The association’s Web site says:

Florida’s current accountability system is no longer credible in the eyes of the public — from the adoption of new standards to the nationally recognized awarding of school grades. Unless public confidence is restored, the entire system is at risk.

To that end, Florida must realign and revamp the accountability system and regain the trust of students, teachers, parents and Floridians. Otherwise, the system will buckle due to the unrealistic expectations of the individual components of the system and the impending implementation date of 2014-2015.

What Virginians don’t know about new A-F school grading system.

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