By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
RICHMOND — Calling the grading of public schools a “catalytic converter” for academic improvement, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Friday urged Virginia to follow the Sunshine State’s lead.
“Of all the things we did, grades propelled school improvement,” Bush said in a teleconference with Gov. Bob McDonnell.
As in Florida, McDonnell’s plan would issue A-F grades to schools, according to students’ performance on standardized tests.
“Our current accountability system uses bureaucratic and somewhat incomprehensible language,” McDonnell said. “With a clear rating system, schools improve and achievement gaps close.”
He predicted that “40 to 50 schools” would initially be in the “D and F category.”
After nearly a decade, Florida’s A-F grading system has become “a powerful tool for engagement,” said Bush, founder and chairman of the Tallahassee-based Foundation for Excellence in Education.
“We had historically underperforming schools and complacency had developed. But the minute a school got a D or an F, the alumni of those schools got engaged to improve them.”
Several Virginia education leaders on the call expressed skepticism about the grading program and requested a one-year delay in implementation, noting that recent scores on the commonwealth’s Standards of Learning exams had fallen.
Left unaddressed — as they have been in Florida — were concerns about including special-education pupils who do not have the ability to successfully complete grade-level exams.
The House is scheduled to vote on Delegate Tag Greason’s HB 1999 Monday. The Senate is scheduled to vote on similar legislation Tuesday.
The measures direct the state Board of Education to convert the current “certification” system to letter grades beginning Aug. 1.
Listen to an audio clip of Bush here …
Contact Kenric Ward at [email protected] or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward