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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

FLDOE official offers insights into school grading proposal



Some of the proposals to change Florida's school grading system left us wondering the rationale behind them. So we turned to Jane Fletcher, the state's director of accountability and policy research for some explanations. These didn't make it into our story today, so we share here.

First we asked about what the Florida Association of District Schools Superintendents is calling the F trigger. This proposal would give an F grade to any school that do not have at least where more than 25 percent of students score below Level 3 or better on FCAT reading. The superintendents have argued that the state's goal of using multiple measures of success is ignored with such a recommendation.

Fletcher suggested that if a school can't meet this standard, it isn't successful.

"Reading is so integral to science and lots of other areas," she said. "We looked for a standard that most people ... would say, yes, you really should have at least 25 percent of students reading at grade level to receive a passing grade."

Next, we turned to a proposal that would remove any student earning Level 3 or better from the state's calculation of learning gains among the school's bottom 25 percent of students. That would, we pointed out, create the possibility that some schools would have their gains based on fewer than 25 percent of students, perhaps placing a greater burden on the most academically needy students.

"The law says what we are to use as the lowest 25 percent of students, and they cannot be performing satisfactorily," Fletcher said. "We cannot include those students."

Fletcher noted that many of the recommended changes are based on statutory requirements, such as the addition of new end of course exams. She said this rule looks forward to three years worth of such requirements, to avoid yet another round of changes in the near future. 

Other ideas, such as the use of a five-year graduation rate that includes more than the federal calculation, are designed to incorporate concerns that Floridians have raised that all students should be counted in a school's performance, Fletcher said. She suggested that schools will continue to press for improvements to meet the marks, and that as they become more accustomed to the tests and goals those will become more achievable.

Some educators we spoke to questioned whether the system is becoming so onerous as to be meaningless. But they are resigned to the continued existence of school grading, and have tried to offer options that they think will make the rule more reasonable. Watch Tuesday to see what happens. 

[Last modified: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 10:19am]


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