The state Board of Education is working on a new rule to grade schools, but not everyone is happy with the proposal.
On Friday, board members began discussing a proposed rule to give schools grades of "A" through "F." The rule, which is still in draft form, would implement a school report-card system starting next school year that would grade schools on academic achievement in language arts, math and science, based on student proficiency and progress. The report card would also include a grade for parent satisfaction and, starting in 2014, one for instructional quality.
But much of the discussion Friday focused on whether the idea is valid. State Superintendent Larry Shumway told board members in November that his office would work on the rule in hope of giving board members a say in how it might work. Lawmakers have also said that they are working on a bill to create a school grading system.
A committee put together by the state Office of Education has been working on the rule since November.
State Board Chairwoman Debra Roberts said she liked the idea of using letter grades to help motivate parents and schools. But she doesn't want to do it in a way that's threatening.
"As a parent, a letter grade would better communicate to me where my school is at than what we're currently using," Roberts said. But she added that certain things, like class size, shouldn't be graded because that's a funding issue.
Board member C. Mark Openshaw said he also doesn't want to see a grading system become punitive. But "I do believe that which you measure tends to improve," he said.
Others, however, criticized the idea, saying grading schools would not necessarily help them improve.
"Every time we take a step in this direction we take away the cooperation and collaboration going on in education," said board Vice Chairwoman Dixie Allen. "The more we take collaboration and cooperation out of the public school system, the worse our public school system becomes."
Board member Tami Pyfer said grading might be a good communication tool, but she worries about expecting grades to improve schools, saying the idea "doesn't hold a lot of merit."
Ultimately, the board decided to continue discussions about the rule in coming months. Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, has said he is working on a bill to create a school grading system. He announced his plan to draft a bill in August during a visit by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
During that visit, Bush described to educators and state leaders how Florida boosted its student achievement through a number of reforms, including grading schools. Florida's reform plan also included giving rewards and consequences for those grades, not allowing third-graders with poor reading scores to advance to fourth grade, increasing graduation requirements and expanding school choice through charter schools, corporate tax credit scholarships and vouchers. Florida also limits class sizes, per a constitutional amendment voters there passed in 2002, though Bush said that Florida's success was not connected to its lower class sizes.