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Jeb Bush Touts McDonnell’s School Grading Plan

February 2, 2013

Samantha Morgan
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is helping promote Gov. Bob McDonnell’s plan to rate Virginia’s schools on an A-through-F grading scale.

Bush joined McDonnell in a conference call on Friday to praise the Virginia chief executive’s K-12 education reform agenda.

Bush served as Florida’s governor from 1999 to 2007 and implemented an A-F grading system for schools there.

“You get greater meaning and public attention” with such a system, Bush told reporters during the conference call. “You get Realtors bragging about the neighborhood school being an ‘A’ school. The interest because of this transparency becomes really a powerful tool for engagement by people in the schools.”

Bush emphasized the power of community support. He said even historically underperforming schools discovered a newfound purpose for change as their alumni got involved.

“Grading schools was probably the place that had the quickest impact that propelled Florida literally from the bottom of the pack to above the national average in most of the indicators that benchmark how we do,” Bush said.

McDonnell wants to take a lesson from Bush’s playbook on how to improve the quality of Virginia’s schools. He says Virginia could emulate the success Florida achieved under Bush.

“The work that he has done has been remarkable,” McDonnell said, calling Bush’s initiatives “common-sense reforms.”

The Virginia General Assembly is considering two bills to require the Virginia Board of Education to develop an A-F grading system to rate the performance of each public school in the state. The letter grade would be in addition to the state’s more detailed standards of accreditation for individual school performance.

Republican Delegate Tag Greason of Landsdowne is sponsoring House Bill 1999. It was endorsed 14-7 by the House Education Committee and is now before the full House of Delegates.

Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Moneta, has a companion measure – Senate Bill 1207. It squeaked by the Senate Education and Health Committee, 8-7, and is scheduled for a vote Monday by the full Senate.

McDonnell said such legislative proposals would help Virginia’s schoolchildren.

“The best thing we can do is give them a great teacher and have the atmosphere for an involved parent,” he said.