Va House passes bill to grade schools from A to F

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -The House of Delegates passed legislation Monday that would assign letter grades to public schools in Virginia just as teachers grade students from A to F.

The bill, a conspicuous piece of Gov. Bob McDonnell's education reforms, won final House passage on a bipartisan 54-40 vote with six delegates not voting.

A similar bill easily won Senate committee backing last week and is due for a final floor vote Tuesday.

Republican House Majority Leader Kirk Cox of Colonial Heights, a retired teacher, and other supporters said the grading system is the only way to hold underperforming schools to account and that it would stimulate parental involvement in failing schools.

Opponents, including lobbying groups for teachers and school boards, say the grades unfairly depict a struggling school and would further harm at-risk students.

"It's time for Virginia to adapt this common sense A-F school grading system that has been successfully implemented in other states and will help us continue to make real improvements in the quality of our children's education," McDonnell said in a written statement after the House vote.

The Senate also voted 40-0 to pass McDonnell's bill revamping teacher evaluation and grievance procedures. The bill requires annual evaluations and allows teachers and principals to be fired after one bad appraisal. Local school boards would be authorized to expand teacher probationary periods from three years, the current standard, to five years. The legislation also streamlines the grievance process.

The House passed the bill last week.

Also Monday, the House gave preliminary approval to a McDonnell-backed proposal to create an Opportunity Educational Institution to take over failing schools. An 11-member board would oversee efforts to restore the schools to full accreditation, then return them to the local school division's control. The bill also is pending in the Senate.