Grades would range from A through D for local schools

Published 11:18 am Wednesday, February 6, 2013

FRANKLIN—Under proposed state legislation that would grade public schools on an A-F scale, Franklin High School and S.P. Morton Elementary School would receive “C’s,” according to the state Department of Education.

Franklin’s Joseph P. King Middle School would get a “D.”

The letter grades don’t surprise Franklin School Board Chairwoman Edna King, who has no problem with the legislation the House approved 54-40 on Tuesday.

Franklin Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle disagrees with the bill, which is on its way to the Senate.

J.P. King has been designated among the lowest-performing five percent of schools in Virginia for reading and math. The school is working with state-approved partners to meet state and federal requirements.

S.P. Morton was among the lowest 10 percent for reading. Franklin High Schools also fell short of federal standards in reading and math.

King expects improvement and believes a grading scale can put things into perspective.

“We are making progress,” she said. “I’m very optimistic that by the end of the year, whatever the Department of Education uses, this grade will come up. There will be a change.”

Belle believes the accreditation system has flaws, which are being worked on toward improvement.

“This is just something that came up all of a sudden and it blind-sided us,” she said about the legislation. “I’m not in agreement with it.”

“We are going to see more growth as we try to fix things,” Belle added. “It will just take us a little longer to get there.”

The school board recently contracted with Edison Learning of Chicago to help bring J.P. King up to required standards.

The State Department of Education has assigned Milton Liverman, a former superintendent of Suffolk Public Schools, to serve as the school district’s liaison and focus coach to help with improving the reading scores. Federal dollars will pay for Liverman’s contract.

Isle of Wight County Schools

In Isle of Wight County, Carrsville and Windsor Elementary schools and Windsor Middle School would receive “A’s” and Windsor High School, a “B.”

Laura Abel, assistant superintendent for instruction and curriculum in IOW schools, said the district is always supportive of ways to better inform parents and community members about the instructional programs offered.

“The A-F grading system could serve as a quick tool for folks to use to evaluate a school, however, we are concerned that a letter grade in isolation may provide an incomplete and misleading picture of what is really going on in a school and the division,” Abel said. “Without really having a true in-depth understanding of the criteria that is being used to assign the letter grades, there is an unfortunate possibility that wrong assumptions can be made about students and staff who attend and work in that school.”

Southampton County Public Schools

In Southampton County, receiving “A’s” would be Capron, Meherrin and Nottoway elementary schools; “B’s,” Southampton High and Middle schools; and a “C,” Riverdale Elementary School. Riverdale is accredited with a warning.

Superintendent Dr. Alvera Parrish did not return a phone call.