By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–Success or Failure for a student is measured in grades. If a kid generally gets all As, it normally means they work hard and are naturally smart. All Fs normally means a kid did not make much of an effort. How do we know that an individual school is doing well or not? Representative Terri Collins (R) from Decatur wants to give all the schools in Alabama their own grades. Rep. Collins is the sponsor of HB 588, which would do exactly that. Each school would be given a grade: A, B, C, D, or F.
Rep. Collins said, “Parents deserve to know how their child’s school is measuring up,” said Rep. Collins. “If we don’t have an honest, data-based assessment of how schools are actually doing, how can we know what improvements need to be made to ensure our children are getting the best education possible? This bill will provide a comprehensive, consistent, easy-to-understand evaluation of school performance and encourage more parental and community involvement in local schools.”
This is not an original idea. Rep. Collins developed this proposal after a meeting with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R). Gov. Bush said that “implementing an accurate, consistent, easy-to-understand school grading system was the single reform most responsible for Florida’s extraordinary gains in education.”
Rep. Collins said, “Governor Bush’s record of improving public education speaks for itself. He told us this reform led to communities becoming more engaged in their public schools, demanding excellence. That kind of community ‘buy-in’ is exactly what many schools in Alabama need in order to improve.”
Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn and other legislators helped draft the plan. Rep. Hubbard said, “Rep. Terri Collins is a champion for improving public schools, and we are lucky to have her in the Alabama Legislature. This is a common sense reform that will result in local communities becoming more informed about what’s going on in their public schools and, therefore, more involved. While we work to improve our overall education system from the ground up, we must also allow parents, educators and community leaders the tools to fix local problems with local solutions. That starts with transparency.”
The grades will be based on state authorized assessments, achievement gap, college and career readiness and learning gains. The system will be implemented by the State Superintendent of Education. The grades will be made public and parents may compare the grades of their local schools with other schools from all over the state of Alabama. According to the bill, schools receiving a grade of “A” are making excellent progress. Schools receiving a grade of “B” are making above average progress. Schools receiving a grade of “C” are making satisfactory progress. Schools receiving a grade of “D” are making less than satisfactory progress. Schools receiving a grade of “F” are failing to make adequate progress. The State Superintendent of Education is given until December 31st to design the new grading system and he is to have the system in place no later than by the 2013-2014 school year.
HB 588 instructs the Superintendent to seek input from parents, teachers, school administrators, existing State Department of Education advisory groups or task forces and other education stakeholders In developing this school grading system.
The bill, HB 588, passed the Alabama House of Representatives by a margin of 85 to 9 and now HB 588 goes on to the Alabama Senate. HB 588 was cosponsored by Representatives Henry, Scott, Beech, Treadaway, Williams (D), Fincher, Wallace, Ball, Mask, Buttram, Greer, Chesteen, Williams (P), and Weaver.