Florida schools could get a break from standards
Published: Friday, July 12, 2013 at 12:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 12, 2013 at 12:25 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE — Seeking to ease the transition to tough new education standards, Florida could make last-minute changes to the annual school grades used by parents to evaluate how well their child's public school is performing.
Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett on Friday said that he wants to alter the formula used to calculate annual school grades. The A-to-F grades have been a hallmark of the sweeping education changes first put into place by then-Gov. Jeb Bush back in 1999.
The grades are used to reward top schools with additional money and sanction those that get failing marks.
Bennett recommended keeping in place a "temporary" rule first adopted last year that would limit a school grade from dropping more than one letter at a time. The state Board of Education will consider the change at a special meeting scheduled for next week.
The commissioner is responding to worries from school superintendents that recent changes to the grading system would create a large drop in the grades. The grades are based primarily on student performance on a series of high-stakes tests, but also other factors such as learning gains made by students.
Florida is currently in the middle of a transition away from the tests and standards that have been in place.
The state is scheduled to shift over to what is known as common core standards during the 2014-15 school year. But at the same time the state has also been revising its tests — and graduation requirements even before the shift to common core takes place.
Bennett said that in order to protect the "credibility" of the state's standards and create a "glidepath" to the common core standards he was willing to make some alterations to this year's school grading formula.
"To be clear, my recommendations ... are made not to soften the blow of higher standards or to reduce the number of failing schools, but rather to advance the best policy for Florida's students and position our state for a successful transition," Bennett wrote in his recommendation letter to the state board.
The changes, however, may not be enough for some school superintendents.
Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent for Miami-Dade County schools, expressed concerns on both Twitter and Facebook on Friday that Bennett did make additional changes to what he called a "flawed formula."
Last year state officials took steps to soften the blow of changing standards, including putting a floor on how far a school's grade could drop. That provision was supposed to expire after one year.
But in the end there was still a 24 percent drop in the number of A-rated elementary, middle and combination schools. The number of schools that received D and F grades also grew.
If the state board adopts Bennett's changes the next round of school grades will likely be announced later this month.