The House has given initial approval to HB 388, a proposal to give annual letter grade report cards to each public and charter school building in the state.
The bill was amended to have the Department of Education give schools not only one, overall letter grade, but a series of letter grades and associated percentage scores assessing each of the areas in the School Improvement Program. It instructs the Department to create rules for issuing a report card that is easily understood by the general public.
Its sponsor, Representative Kathryn Swan (R-Cape Girardeau) says parents don’t have easy access to understandable information about a school’s performance.
“It is available but extremely difficult to find, to navigate one’s way through the [Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s] website. It takes several clicks, and as they’re working on the website itself, then those clicks change as you try to access that information.”
An amendment sponsored by Representative Brandon Ellington (R-Kansas City) also requires schools whose overall grade drops below 70% to submit an improvement plan to the Department.
Some Democrats opposed the measure, saying letter grades are too simplistic. Representative Margo McNeil (D-Florissant) says those grades will send the wrong message.
“Schools that are labeled ‘D’ or ‘F’ will be seen as failures. Yes, I do believe that parents will want to initiate change, but the change they most likely will initiate is … moving to a different district.”
House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka), who has been promoting education reform as part of his larger legislative agenda, called the bill a simple step forward.
“I don’t view this as any sort of groundbreaking education reform, but I do believe it is important for transparency and accountability.”
Another favorable vote would send the measure to the Senate.
AUDIO: Rep. Kathryn Swan presents HB 388, 3:13
AUDIO: Margo McNeil opposes HB 388, 4:58