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Virginia is changing the way it grades its public schools, and it wants citizen input.
The Virginia Department of Education has created a survey for parents and other members of the public to help design an updated online performance report card for schools and school divisions in the state.
The survey features 16 questions on what elements citizens want to see on the performance report cards. Possible components include student performance on state tests, whether the school meets state and federal education standards and school finances.
“The current report cards provide a wealth of data, but the static format limits the usefulness of the information and can be confusing,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said in a news release. “The results of this survey will help the department and the state Board of Education identify additional indicators to provide the public with a fuller understanding of a school’s or division’s performance.”
Results from the survey will be presented to the state Board of Education later this year. The General Assembly passed legislation this year directing the Board of Education to create new report cards for schools by Oct. 1, 2016.
The redesigned report cards would replace a much maligned A-F report card system championed by ex-Gov. Bob McDonnell and approved in 2013.
McDonnell promoted the plan as a way to help parents better understand school performance through the use of the traditional A, B, C, D, F grading scale.
The grading scale was originally planned to come into effect by Oct. 1, 2015, but the General Assembly voted in 2014 to delay implementation for two years, before scrapping the plan entirely this year.
Although local political leaders, including state Sen. Tommy Norment (R-3), Del. Brenda Pogge (R-96) and former Del. Mike Watson (R-93), supported McDonnell’s plan, the superintendents of the area’s two school division opposed the A-F report card.
“I don’t understand why the legislature would think the public is so stupid they couldn’t understand what ‘accredited with warning’ means,” Williamsburg-James City County Superintendent Steve Constantino said at the time. “I’m perplexed why legislation was passed with no rubrics, no metrics. It suggests this is more beneficial politically.”
Former York County School Division Superintendent Steve Staples also attacked the plan in his capacity as Virginia Association of School Superintendents director. Staples currently serves as state Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Diane T. Atkinson, chairman of the Board of Education’s Committee on School and Division Accountability said the redesigned report cards would improve the assessment scale by providing context for each school’s scores.
“School and division performance report cards will continue to provide accountability ratings and detailed state assessment results,” Atkinson said in a news release. “But the new report cards will include contextual information to help the public understand the challenges schools face and tools that parents and others can use to zero in on the information that most interests them.”
The survey is available online here.
Correction 7/27/2015: This article has been updated to show state Sen. John Miller (D-1) did not vote in favor of former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s education plan in 2013. A previous version incorrectly reported he voted for the plan.