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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Should minority parents be upset?



Chances are, educators across Florida did a little jig this morning when they heard that the Department of Education wants to scrap a toothy part of the school grading formula that penalizes schools for the poor performance of struggling students. But one national think tank says some parents should be upset - particularly the parents of poor and minority kids. Daria Hall, an assistant policy director with Education Trust, told The Gradebook that the proposed change is "really yanking any focus on equity out of the Florida A+ accountability model."

The independent D.C.-based non-profit, which aims to eliminate the achievement gap, has a national reputation for being clear-eyed on accountability issues. It's familiar with Florida's school grading system and likes that it puts more weight on the kids who struggle the most. (If a school doesn't get FCAT learning gains from at least half the kids in the bottom 25 percent, it loses a letter grade.) Said Hall: "This is the one and only aspect of the Florida accountability plan that requires schools to focus on the lowest performing groups of kids. To remove this from the accountability plan is going to negatively impact those groups of kids and their families and their communities."

But what about polls that show many minority parents aren't exactly big fans of the FCAT or Florida's grading system, either? Said Hall: "If you put it to an African American parent or a Latino parent or a low-income parent, and you say, 'Do you want your school to get an A if it's not focusing on your kids?' There's not a parent that's going to say yes."

At this point, state education officials say they want to suspend that part of the school grading formula for a year, and then study what's best in the long term. The state Board of Education is slated to vote on the change Tuesday in Miami.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:18am]


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