Roanoke schools dislike new letter grade school ranking system - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Roanoke schools call new letter grade school ranking system unfair

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Virginia lawmakers recently passed legislation that would create a grading system for schools. Each school will be given a letter grade A to F, much like students.  It will be based on multiple factors including accreditation and meeting accountability requirements.

The Virginia Department of Education is currently working on the plan.  Letter grades would be assigned in fall 2014.

The Westside Elementary community says over the last few years they've made huge progress.

"Student morale has really turned around, test scores have increased, teacher involvement has really increased" said Jeff May, a Westside Elementary student mentor and coach.

The school received a federal grant for more than $1.8 million dollars. It runs out in September.

"Put different reading programs in place, different testing materials and testing preps in place, it staffs our school with the appropriate staff that can help us in the areas that we're weak" said May.

But it's that same money superintendent Dr. Rita Bishop says is giving two Roanoke elementary schools a bad grade.

"I think we had a pretty good view of who was making it and who wasn't. I just don't know how necessary this was," said Dr. Bishop.

Based on the legislation proposal released in January (see at bottom of article), Westside and Lincoln Terrace Elementary would both be given a "D" because they are labeled as priority schools meaning they get federal money. Dr. Bishop says without the money they would be a "B" school.

"If you are giving us the "D" contingent upon a clause or just one aspect of receiving funding or receiving something given to improve us, then I really think that's unfair and I think you really need to look at what we're doing here on a day to day basis" said May.

Virginia Department of Education spokesman Charles Pyle tells me January's proposal doesn't factor in testing improvements or what they call "student growth".  Pyle says the January proposal is now "irrelevant" because it's an earlier version of the proposed legislation saying it "in no way reflects the letter grades school might receive in 2014."

"There certainly was a lot of disruption to the system around this. I think I would have preferred to have had it thoroughly worked out and then announced" said Dr. Bishop.

She says they may ask more questions before accepting more money.

Dr. Bishop says William Fleming High School also falls into the "D" category based on the list because it's been warned regarding state accreditation and all other schools in Roanoke City would fall into the "A" or "B" category. 

Upcoming deadlines:

By July 31, 2013, the Board of Education must approve student growth indicators. "Student growth" is defined in the legislation as:

"(i) whether individual students on average fall below, meet, or exceed an expected amount of growth based on a statewide average or reference base year on state assessments or additional assessments approved by the Board; (ii) maintaining a proficient or advanced proficient performance level on state assessments; or (iii) making significant improvement within the below basic or basic level of performance on reading or mathematics assessments as determined by the Board."

By December 1, 2013, the Department of Education must submit a report to the Governor and the General Assembly on the approval of student growth indicators and their uses.

By October 1, 2014, the Board of Education shall assign a grade from A to F to each public school in the Commonwealth; make both the system and the grade assigned to each school in the Commonwealth available to the public; and report to the General Assembly a summary of the system and the assigned grades.

Schools grades based on proposed criteria (Jan29):

A - Fully Accredited with 25% advanced pass rates (using 3-year trailing averages for all 4 subjects) and have met all federal AMOs

B – Fully Accredited with advanced pass rates less than 25%

C – Accredited with warning in one content area only

D – Accredited with warning in more than one content area or provisionally accredited GCI

F – Denied Accreditation or conditionally accredited-reconstituted

**** In all scenarios "Priority Schools" have been awarded Fs if they were Denied or Conditionally Accredited.  All other Priority Schools were awarded Ds regardless of the number of areas they were warned or if they were fully accredited.  Nine Schools that are fully accredited were awarded a D in these two scenarios because they were a Priority School 

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