Gaetz on school grades
In the most detailed sign yet that Florida's school grading formula is in for a shake-up, state Sen. Don Gaetz (left), the influential chair of the Senate Education Committee, told The Gradebook this morning that graduation rates, AP scores and the number of vocational students earning industry certifications are among the factors he'll seek to include in the formula during the legislative session that begins March 4. Gaetz said those recommendations will be included in a bill he expects to file within 10 days.
Currently, Florida schools are graded on FCAT scores alone. And the bulk of a high school's grade is based on the reading, writing and math tests that its ninth and tenth graders take. "Half the students in a high school take the FCAT. Half don't," said Gaetz, R-Niceville. "I think a more comprehensive and more realistic view of the high school would be obtained if we looked into more doors to see what's going on in more classes."
Gaetz's vision dovetails with recent comments from new Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith (see Gradebook post here) and addresses some of the criticism that has been persistently leveled at the school-grading formula that former Gov. Jeb Bush put into place.
More specifically, Gaetz said he wants school grades to include AP scores, overall AP participation rates and participation rates for poor and minority students. He said SAT and ACT scores should be in the mix. And he said including national industry certifications is key because it better factors in the performance of vocational students.
Gaetz apparently isn't out to revamp school grades completely, though. In committee this week, he voted to shoot down a bill by Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, that would have replaced A-F letter grades with "excellent," "above average," "satisfactory," "less than satisfactory" and "failing." The bill failed on a 3-3, party-line vote. She's tried and failed to get that bill passed five straight years.
- Ron Matus, state education reporter