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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

A's, B's outpace lower marks in Florida school grade simulation



Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart issued a 2014-15 school grades simulation on Wednesday, as the State Board of Education nears its January decision on cut scores and grading guidelines.

Stewart has recommended lower cut scores than some board members have desired, leading to heated debate and uncertainty as to how the system will look.

Using her proposed definitions, which superintendents and other groups have backed, Stewart presented a picture that's not nearly as negative as many observers have anticipated.

In her model, 1,159 schools would earn A's, and 627 would receive B's. On the other end, 875 would get C's, 364 would make D's and 189 would rate F. Those numbers match up closely with 2013-14 grades, which department officials noted are not good comparisons because they are based on different tests, standards, scores and rules.

Many groups have, in fact, opposed the release of any grades at all this year because of the differences, most prominently the lack of student academic gains data. Because the grades are based primarily on proficiency, many of the lowest performing schools align closely with the areas of most poverty.

"Any grades released this year can't be valid, because there's no baseline data," said Linda Cobbe, Pasco schools spokeswoman. "We're not going to celebrate A's, and we're not going to mourn F's."

Department leaders and lawmakers have insisted on moving ahead with school grades nonetheless. They did remove some, but not all, of the consequences attached to the results.

"Reviewing simulation data is the final phase of the process for this rule," Stewart wrote in a letter to superintendents. "As you develop your final comments, I am providing you with a simulation of the letter grade each school would earn should the State Board adopt my proposed achievement level cut scores and the school grades rule in its current form. After the State Board adopts the rule and it goes into effect, we will calculate and release the official preliminary informational baseline school grades, which eventually will be the basis for school recognition dollars."

The State Board vote is scheduled for Jan. 6.

[Last modified: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 10:04am]


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