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Thursday, Apr 24, 2014

Florida superintendents question school grades


Published:   |   Updated: June 18, 2013 at 05:09 PM

TAMPA - Students across the state need to get used to tougher grading, but school superintendents say Florida's rigorous new school grading formula skews improving student test scores.

At Tuesday's Board of Education meeting in Tampa, Hillsborough County Superintendent Mary Ellen Elia and Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of Miami-Dade schools, asked the board to re-evaluate the state's school grading formula, which relies heavily on Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores. Changes to the formula each year have created data that isn't comparable, resulting in school grades that are expected to go down across the state, even in areas where student learning gains are increasing, they said.

Education Commissioner Tony Bennett's response was to form a task force, made up of experts and district superintendents, to come up with a solution by July, when school grades are expected to be released. But Elia warned that the problem is immediate.

"We have scores in our hands that we don't believe are valid indications of how our students are doing," she said. "

The tougher FCAT grading standards are supposed to get students ready to transition to the Common Core standards and standardized testing in the 2014-2015 school year. The nationwide standards focus on high-level reading and comprehension skills. Students will only take the FCAT one more year.

Hillsborough County expects to see 10 times more elementary schools get F grades this year because of the state's tougher grading formula, Elia said. Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Michael Grego also expects a tremendous drop in school grades, even though Pinellas students performed better on the FCAT than last year, he said.


More low scores means more failing schools, and more failing schools mean school districts may have more state-led interventions, such as the five schools in Pinellas and two in Hillsborough, where poor performance led to an overhauling of the faculty and, in some cases, replacing principals.

"If I have 10 times the number of schools that are failing and I'm only one district out of 67, it would be impossible for the state to address the issues of every F school in the state," Elia said.


The school grading formula combines factors such as the percentage of students taking advanced classes and school-wide performance on standardized tests to come up with an overall letter grade. In part, the scores determine what schools get additional funding and teacher raises. State school officials still need to determine how schools will be graded once they move to the Common Core curriculum.

adawson@tampatrib.com

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