Thursday, January 30, 2014

House Education Reform Subcommittee: A-F grading, school calendar and electronic textbooks

This morning the House Education Reform Subcommittee met to discuss a variety of bills ranging from A-F school grading and electronic textbooks to local control of the school calendar.

HB318 (Kory) would abolish the A-F grading system. This bill was laid on the table and will not move forward. Additionally HB553 (Krupicka) would change A-F grading from a single letter grade to five letter grades starting in the 2015-2016 school year . This bill was laid on the table. HB618 (Mason) would delay A-F grading for three years and HB1262 (Miller)would delay A-F for three year and outlined factors that needed to be included in the grades. Both of these bills were tabled. However, HB1229 (Landes) was reported from the subcommittee. This bill delays the A-F grading system from October 1, 2014 to October 1, 2015 unanimously passed the subcommittee.

There were several local control of the school calendar bills again this year. HB35, HB42, and HB386 were all tabled and rolled into HB333. HB333 makes local school boards responsible for setting the school calendar and determining the opening date of the school year. Additionally, HB577 was reported. This legislation is different than most of the school calendar bills. It will allow a division Superintendent and local school board to set the school calendar for any school within the division that has failed to achieve full accreditation status or any division if more than 15 percent of the schools within the division failed to achieve full accreditation status. HB610 was reported by the subcommittee. It will allow a local school board to set their school calendar and opening date. However, the division must close schools from the Thursday before through Labor Day or Friday before through the Tuesday after Labor Day. Finally, HB34 was tabled by the subcommittee. This bill would prohibit high schools from starting programs of instruction prior to 8:00a.m.

There were two bills dealing with electronic textbooks, HB742 patroned by Delegate Kory and HB936 patroned by Delegate Surovell. HB742 requires that all local school board’s textbook contracts and purchase orders include printed textbooks, printed textbooks with electronic files or electronic textbooks version in grades kindergarten through grade 12. Currently it is only required in grades 6 through 12. Additionally, it requires the Department of Education to report annually to General Assembly on the level of broadband connectivity of each local school board and the ability for each student to access electronic textbooks at school and at home. HB936 prohibits school boards from using electronic textbooks in their residence unless the school board adopts a plan to ensure that by July 1, 2017 every student will have access to a personal computing device and access to the internet. Both HB742 and HB936 were carried over for the year for the committee to discuss in the interim.