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.

Representative Kathryn Swan (R-Cape Girardeau)  (Photo courtesy; Missouri House Communications)

Representative Kathryn Swan (R-Cape Girardeau) (Photo courtesy; Missouri House Communications)

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