Do too many changes to Florida's state grading system threaten its credibility?
Superintendents MaryEllen Elia, Mike Grego and Alberto Carvalho -- all known for their willingness to challenge the state powers that be when they see things going awry -- raised a key question this week as they urged the Florida Board of Education to rethink changes to its school grading rules.
Can too much fluctuation in the method damage the credibility of the accountability system that they all tout as the impetus for improved student performance?
"My concern is actually one that comes out of a protective position toward accountability," Miami-Dade superintendent Carvalho told the board, as he termed the state's pending school grade declines a "mis-signal" based on data that doesn't compare the same things from year to year.
Board members, who had been expected not to bend much, took the message seriously, going so far as to call for a task force to examine the superintendents' arguments and possibly recommend changes.
"This board believes in accountability," board chairman Gary Chartrand said. "What we want to make sure is that the system that is governing accountability is the right system."
FLDOE deputy chief of staff Will Krebs is pulling together the task force. Members are expected to be named early next week, with a meeting as soon as late in the week (maybe a few days later).
The task force will walk a delicate path. The State Board already raised eyebrows over school grades a year ago, when it abruptly lowered the passing score on FCAT Writing after plunging results threatened to bring grades down. Soon after the board adopted new school grading rules that members said would go into effect in 2013.
The state superintendents association has asked for a delay in some of those.
At the same time, the grading formula promises to undergo yet another transformation over the coming few years as Florida moves away from the FCAT into a new testing regime.
Board member Kathleen Shanahan has warned that "accountability is under attack" and said the state must tread carefully into this debate. Other states are watching Florida, with many adopting its school grading model. Getting the public to understand what's happening will be key, Shanahan said, noting that "it's going to be a very complicated message."
What do school grades mean to you? Do changes to the formula matter?