By Eli Yokley and Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog
JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri lawmakers gave first-round approval to legislation Tuesday that would give public and charter schools an ‘A’ through ‘F’ letter grade for their performance.
The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Swan, R-Cape Girardeau and dubbed the Parent and Community School Information Act, would give a school a report card based on a set of criteria in an effort to simplify the reporting system.
House Speaker Tim Jones gave a rare speech on the floor Tuesday, his first since becoming speaker.
“This is an element of the agenda that I laid out for this House,” Jones said, referring to his “triple E” agenda focused on economic development, energy, and education. “It is a small step, but it takes a complicated system and explains it in a very understandable way.”
Jones said he didn’t believe this action was “groundbreaking” for education reform, “but I do believe it is important for transparency and accountability.”
The bill, HB388, would require another vote in the House to move to the Senate.
Opponents of the bill have claimed that the system would oversimplify ratings. The Missouri National Education Association and the Missouri School Boards Association testified against the bill.
Mike Wood, government relations director of the Missouri State Teachers Association, said his group would support the measure if it axes the requirement for a letter grade. He said that tactic is “over simplified” and would be a “dumbing down” of the school performance assessments.
Information gathered during school assessments would be distributed to all parents in the school district and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. A school scoring below 70 percent overall would be required to submit an improvement action plan to DESE.