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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida education commissioner promises 'truth in advertising' for school grades



Florida education commissioner Tony Bennett says parents should understand how their schools are performing against higher academic standards, even as he recommends shielding schools from major swings in their state-assigned letter grades.

"There has to be some truth in advertising," Bennett told the Gradebook on Monday. "It will be incumbent in the way we report it. We will develop a system where there is truth in advertising."

He did not have specific language in mind.

Bennett stressed the importance of continuing to increase expectations for students, teachers and schools as Florida makes its transition to more demanding Common Core State Standards. Leaders cannot take their eyes off the ultimate goals of eliminating the achievement gaps among children while pushing everyone to more competitive performance levels, he said.

At the same time, though, Bennett acknowledged that the state has over the past few years implemented so many formula  and related changes at the same time with flat results. He suggested that the superintendents raised a fair criticism of the state's actions, and said his recommendation to limit grade decreases to just one letter grade is "a prudent way to move forward."

"Given the volatility, this is a prudent measure to transition us to Common Core," Bennett said.

He noted, for example, the questions that could arise if a school rated A one year were given an F the following year despite having the same teachers and administrators, and two-thirds of the same students taking the state tests. That stretches credibility, he said.

On the other hand, Bennett also had concerns about the F school that gets a C or D because of protections put in place.

He predicted lively conversation on his recommendation during Tuesday's State Board meeting. It begins at 10 a.m., and will be webcast on the department website.

[Last modified: Monday, July 15, 2013 5:25pm]


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