Legislators vote to give letter grades to all schools

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee lawmakers are moving toward assigning letter grades to public schools.

Under the bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Glen Casada of Franklin, schools would be assigned grades A through F.

Supporters said the current system of rating schools on a scale of one to five can confuse parents who may not know that the lower numbers are worse scores.

The House voted 74-14 to pass the bill (HB155) on Thursday. The Senate had unanimously approved the bill last year, but would have to agree to a change made by the lower chamber before the measure can head for Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk.

The House version would leave it to the executive branch to develop the grading system, while the Senate would assign that task to the State Board of Education.

Note: A press release from StudentsFirst Tennessee praising passage is below.

News release from Tennessee StudentsFirst
NASHVILLE, TN- StudentsFirst Tennessee hailed today’s affirmative House vote on legislation that seeks to empower Tennessee families with clearer, more accessible information about the performance of their local schools. The legislation, HB 155 sponsored by Rep. Casada, would utilize existing resources to direct the State Board of Education to give schools an annual summative A-F letter grade based on multiple factors, including each school’s academic achievement, student growth, and other relevant measures of school performance. The bill passed the State House on a 73-14 bipartisan vote and has already secured unanimous approval in the State Senate last year. Before heading to Governor Haslam’s desk, the bill will return to the Senate for consideration of a minor change made in a House amendment.

Following the vote, StudentsFirst Tennessee spokesman Ted Boyatt remarked, “Transparency and accountability are key to the success of any quality public education system. Although families now have a wealth of information available to them through the state’s Report Card website, the information it contains should be enhanced by adding a concise, overall rating for each school. By disclosing transparent and understandable letter grades, this legislation promises to empower parents and families with the information they need to make better-informed decisions about their child’s education, and do so at no additional cost to taxpayers.”

“Every parent has the right to know and understand the quality of their child’s school,” continued Boyatt. “Sixteen other states already have similar laws providing for publicly accessible school-level A-F ratings. With the passage of this common-sense bill, Tennessee stands ready to join them.”