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Education board OKs A-F school grading system

The Virginia Board of Education unanimously approved an A-F grading system that will assign letter grades to schools based on the percentages of students demonstrating proficiency, academic growth and college and career readiness. 

After Gov. Bill McDonnell made the announcement Thursday, Halifax County School Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon said, “We still do not support this.” 

Herndon previously joined with fellow superintendents across the state taking a stance against the grading system.

The Virginia Association of School Superintendents has stated its opposition to the grading scale saying that replacing local control with state authority over public schools is the opposite of what successful educational systems do. 

Despite their united opposition to the statewide grading system, initial letter grades will be announced at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year and will accompany school accreditation ratings.

Under the system, 50 percent of the grade of an elementary or middle school will be based on overall proficiency in English, mathematics, science and history/social science; 25 percent on overall growth in English and mathematics; and 25 percent on growth in English and mathematics among the school’s lowest-performing students. 

Elementary and middle schools also can earn a capped number of bonus points based on the percentage of students earning advanced scores on Standards of Learning (SOL) tests in the four core content areas and for meeting all federal accountability benchmarks.  

For high schools, 33 percent of the grade will be based on overall proficiency in English, mathematics, science and history/social science; 25 percent will be based on indicators of college and career readiness, such as graduation rates, college credits earned and completion of advanced career and technical education (CTE) programs; eight percent will be based on participation in dual-credit courses and board-approved CTE assessments; 17 percent will be based on growth toward college and career readiness; and 17 percent will be based on growth toward college and career readiness among students at risk of not graduating. 

High schools also can earn a capped number of bonus points based on advanced performance on SOL assessments and for meeting all federal accountability goals.

The governor proposed this system as part of his ALL STUDENTS 2012 education agenda. 

The 2013 General Assembly subsequently approved House Bill 1999 and Senate Bill 1207 — sponsored by Del. Thomas A. Greason, R-Loudoun County and Sen. William M. Stanley Jr., R-Franklin County, respectively — directing the state Board of Education to create an A-F scale based on performance, state and federal accountability standards and student growth indicators.  

McDonnell said he wanted to thank Secretary of Education Javaid Siddiqi, former Secretary of Education Laura Fornash, the Department of Education and the Board of Education for “the thoughtful approach that they have taken in implementing this legislation to provide parents with a better understanding of school performance.”  

He added, “The A-F grading system relies on criteria that will capture a school’s overall performance and growth, college and career readiness, and the success of schools in raising achievement of their lowest-performing students.  The new grading system will better enable us to track school performance and improve education for all Virginia students by utilizing an easy to understand and familiar format.”

Secretary of Education Javaid Siddiqi said, “In implementing the legislation, the state board struck what I believe is an appropriate balance between maintaining high expectations for all children and recognizing the successes of schools that serve students who face significant challenges.” 

The A-F grading system was developed after months of consideration and research as well as significant input from stakeholders, including parents, educators, school and community leaders.