Meeting in Tallahassee today, the Florida Board of Education tweaked the state's school grading formula and nixed a new FCAT graduation requirement.
Until today, a school dropped a full letter grade if at least half of its lowest performing students failed to make gains in reading and math. Now, a school will not face that penalty if it gets at least 40 percent of its lowest-performing students over the hump and that percentage is higher than the year before. Also, a school with less than 40 percent making gains will not be penalized if it improved by at least five percentage points from the prior year.
The board approved the change following a recommendation from the FCAT external advisory committee, which was created last spring after the disclosure of a botched FCAT in 2006. An earlier suggestion to suspend that part of the grading formula caused a minor ruckus, and even prompted former Gov. Jeb Bush to weigh in.
The board also gave Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith the go-ahead to scrap a new provision requiring high school students to pass the writing portion of the tenth grade FCAT to graduate. This year's tenth-graders would have been the first to face that hurdle.
Smith cited "technical issues" and pending budget cuts for his recommendation. As in the past, high school students must still pass the reading and math portions of the FCAT to graduate.
- Ron Matus, state education reporter