Monday, September 24, 2018

Officials seek consistency in how Florida’s end-of-course exams count toward student grades

The calculation would seem easy enough, given the straightforward language of Florida law: A state-administered end-of-course exam "constitutes 30 percent of a student's final course grade."

In reality, though, applying this statute has proven anything but simple. The state's 67 school districts have discovered more than three dozen ways to define what "30 percent of a student's final course grade" actually means.

Some give every student who earns a 3 or better on the exam a 100 percent  score. Some convert a 5 into an A, 4 to a B, and so forth. The list goes on.

The discrepancies have frustrated many parents and educators, who see that the same test does not, in fact, wind up counting the same for every student who receives the same score.

Related: Gradebook podcast: How much is a Florida student's end-of-course exam really worth? 

Levy County schools superintendent Jeff Edison is turning to state officials in search of a fix.

"What we would like to be able to do is get the [lawmakers] to allow the Department of Education to have the rule-making authority to create a consistent definition of what 30 percent is," Edison told the Gradebook. "Give us a uniform way of applying it. It doesn't matter to us [what it is]. We just want it the same."

Edison and some other interested parties have begun consulting with lobbyist Kim McDougal, a former chief of staff and education policy coordinator to Gov. Rick Scott, with plans to sit with Department of Education officials in July.

If they can come up with a workable model, he said, they'll seek legislative support. Levy County's state senator is the powerful Appropriations chairman, Rob Bradley.

The goal, Edison said, is across-the board fairness.

His district equates EOC scale scores — the total points earned, not the 1-5 that's awarded — to a percentage of correct responses, and then gives a connected grade. The lowest 4 would be worth 80 percent, for instance, while the highest 4 would be valued at 89 percent.

That's quite different from districts where a scale score that's a low 2 gets rounded up to a 3 and granted a C, or even a B, Edison suggested.

"There are a bunch of different ways that districts are doing this. Some of them are very logical. Some are not," he said. "Tell us what the rule is. Give us guidance so we can follow the rule and get it right."

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