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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida school grading task force calls for consistency, fairness

A task force of Florida school superintendents and Department of Education officials gathered in Tallahassee on Monday to talk about whether any changes are needed to keep the state's accountability system credible in the public eye.

Superintendents made clear that they stand by the state's effort to increase standards in order to push students to higher levels of achievement. But they criticized the way the state has, in recent years, made multiple changes to the school grading system without giving teachers and students time to adapt.

"If we had done one or two of these, it might have been digestable," said Escambia schools superintendent Malcolm Thomas. "But the fact that we are doing all of this and more ... it has become traumatic."

The public understands how grading works, Hillsborough superintendent MaryEllen Elia added. But if people don't understand how the grades come about, and educators can't stand by the system, she said, their faith in the model could falter.

"It is extremely important we get this right," Elia said, noting her own concerns about whether the FCAT measured gains properly this year.

Commissioner Tony Bennett welcomed the input. He noted, though, that "this will not be a discussion where we are trying to reach a consensus around a recommendation." Rather, he will listen and make a suggestion, if necessary, to the State Board of Education before school grades come out later this summer.

"This shouldn't be about reducing the number of Fs or increasing the number of As," he said, but rather about creating a proper school accountability policy.

After about 90 minutes of discussion, the group took a 10 minute break. It plans to reconvene to discuss specific resolutions, such as keeping in place the 2012 rule that prevented grade drops of more than one letter. The group also called for a transition plan into the state's next level of standards, the Common Core.

No finality is expected Monday.

[Last modified: Monday, July 1, 2013 2:32pm]


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