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A-F School Accountability Over in Virginia After Gov. Terry McAuliffe Signs Bill

Just over two months ago, I highlighted a bill in the Virginia legislature that sought to end the A-F school accountability system that the state approved in 2013 but never truly implemented. On March 19, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, signed that bill into law. (Hat-tip to Lindsey Wagner at NC Policy Watch).

Former Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, signed A-F into law two years ago, but the bill ending it came from a fellow Republican, state Sen. Richard Black. At the start of the year, Black told the press that while he initially supported the A-F scale for grading schools, he eventually became concerned that schools would be unfairly stigmatized if they received a low-performing grade.

Black's bill that the governor signed into law requires the state school board to redesign the School Performance Report Card "so that it is more effective in communicating to parents and the public the status and achievements of the public schools and local school divisions" in Virginia. Factors that the state board can consider in this redesign include student performance on state assessments, student growth indicators, school safety, and total cost and funding per pupil.

Two years ago, McDonnell signed the original law after a visit to Virginia by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who instituted the nation's first A-F report card for schools during his time leading the Sunshine State. The Foundation for Excellence in Education, a K-12 policy group founded by Bush, has lobbied for state's to adopt A-F. But Virginia never got around to actually putting the A-F accountability system into place.

McAuliffe's decision will please the National Education Policy Center, which released a report earlier this year criticizing both the policy foundation of A-F accountability systems, and the extent to which they ultimately serve as a useful tool for parents.

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