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Legislature Passes School Grading and Performance Bonus Bill

Staff Report

Measure could be impetus to major education reforms going forward

MONTGOMERY – A plan to bring unprecedented accountability to Alabama’s education system and provide cash incentives for schools to improve performance today received final passage in the Alabama Legislature.

House Bill 588, sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) was written to establish a simple, comprehensive and consistent system to grade school performance, allowing parents and community leaders to better understand how their local schools are faring. When the bill went to the Senate, Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh (R-Anniston) took it a step further by combining his proposal to set up a school performance bonus system to incentivize improved student achievement.

“Incentivizing high achievement is a common sense way to improve education from the ground up,” said Sen. Marsh. “Top performers are recognized and rewarded while low performers have a tangible incentive to do better. None of this would be possible without a consistent grading system and I applaud Rep. Collins for working to implement this unprecedented level of accountability.”

“Today we took a big step forward for education reform in Alabama,” Rep. Collins said. “This bill will provide a comprehensive, consistent, easy-to-understand evaluation of school performance and encourage more parental and community involvement in local schools. If schools are struggling, parents and community leaders need to know so they can find ways to make improvements. I want to thank Senator Marsh and Rep. Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva) for including their school performance bonus language in the bill. Ensuring accountability and incentivizing performance in our schools are proven ways to improve student achievement.”

Under this bill, schools would be evaluated based on several performance indicators such as state-authorized assessments, achievement gap, college and career readiness and learning gains in a system implemented by State Superintendent of Education. A universally-comprehendible A-B-C-D-F grade would be assigned to each school and made public, and all schools would be graded consistently so that grades of one school or system may be compared to the grades of any other school or system.

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Rep. Collins began working with House Speaker Mike Hubbard, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and other lawmakers to develop the proposal after a meeting with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who told them implementing an accurate, consistent, easy-to-understand school grading system was the single reform most responsible for Florida’s extraordinary gains in education.

Speaker Hubbard said Alabama would do well to learn from Florida’s education story.

“Governor Bush  had great success improving education in Florida, and it all started with being honest with parents about school performance,” Speaker Hubbard said. “He told us this one reform was the impetus for improvements across the board because communities finally became engaged in their public schools. I believe we’ll look back years from now and see this as a seminal moment for education reform in Alabama.”

The bill now goes to Governor Bentley for his consideration.

The Alabama Political Reporter is a daily political news site devoted to Alabama politics. We provide accurate, reliable coverage of policy, elections and government.

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