With Gov. Bob McDonnell’s signature this week, Virginia public schools will each be assigned letter grades to illustrate how well they are educating students.
By October 2014, the Board of Education is be required to assign grades, A through F, to individual schools. The board has until July 31 to come up with a formula to determine how schools will be graded.
According to the language of the bills passed in the House of Delegates and the state Senate, a school’s grade will somewhat be based on their students’ progress in a given year, as well as how well they perform on assessments to meet state and federal benchmarks.
Some education leaders in the commonwealth have expressed a concern that a D or an F grade will unfairly scar schools that serve mostly low-income students.
But Loudoun’s public schools typically fare well when compared with schools throughout the commonwealth. While a few schools in some of the county’s poorest areas have missed what’s called Annual Measurable Benchmarks in specific subject areas, no Loudoun public school has ever missed the mark to be fully accredited. A school’s state accreditation rating reflects overall achievement in English, history/social science, mathematics and science.
Sharon Ackerman, assistant superintendent of instruction for the Loudoun school system, said it’s too soon to know the impact the grades will have on local schools.
“In terms of the whole notion of another way of “grading” schools, it has been staff’s position that the state accreditation ratings are already sufficient for describing to the community the status of each school,” she wrote in an email.
Del. Tag Greason (R-32), who represents Ashburn and has students in Loudoun’s public schools, was the legislation’s patron. He said the new law will help translate for parents the arguably cumbersome rankings given to public schools through students’ achievement in English, history/social science, mathematics and science.
“Using an A through F grade scale will allow parents and communities to see how their schools are performing in a simple and transparent way,” he said in February after the bill passed in the House of Delegates. “We want to promote an atmosphere of excellence and accountability in our schools and this bill will help do that.”