About those school grades
To get school grades out on time, the FCAT advisory panel has agreed upon a handful of recommendations to hold schools harmless for the 2006 third-grade reading scoring errors. First, the state will not count third graders when calculating whether a school made learning gains - unless the inclusion of those students would benefit the school. Fewer than 100 schools would be helped by counting the third graders, said Juan Copa, Director of AYP, School Grades, Research, and Reporting. In the few instances where eliminating the third graders would push the numbers of children beneath the statistically valid cell size of 30, they will still count as being tested.
Second, the state will not penalize schools if they do not have at least half of the students in the lowest quartile of students making gains. In the past, a school would drop a letter grade if they didn't meet that mark. No longer. And not just elementary schools. All schools. Commissioner Jeanine Blomberg explained that although the scoring problems were limited to third grade, the department had planned to review and possibly revise this aspect of school grades regardless. The scoring problem simply accelerated action.
Blomberg was not so giving on complaints from several districts about this year's inclusion of science scores in the school grades. Several on the panel called the science scoring unreasonable and said it would push otherwise high performing schools downward. Blomberg said the same complaints would come next year if the state didn't include them now. "We're not doing well in science. That is why we are focusing on math and science initiatives," she said.
The State Board of Education will take up these recommendations next week.