House tweaks its school grades proposal
State Rep. Janet Adkins on Monday made changes to the House plan to simplify the school grading formula.
Now, the House formula excludes the performance of English language learners who have been in United States schools for fewer than two years.
In addition, it requires the district report card to include the percentage of students in the highest and lowest quartiles making learning gains.
And if the state Board of Education were to adjust the grading scale upward, the board would be required to "inform the public and the school districts of the reasons for and degree of the adjustment, and its anticipated impact on school grades."
The revised formula won the support of the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee.
Adkins said the bill would "provide transparency in school grades."
"Parents don't really undesrtand what that A means," she said. "This will clear that up."
The House proposal is intended to simplify the state's complex formula for grading schools.
It eliminates the factors that automatically cause school grades to drop, as well as the five-year graduation rate and some measures of college readiness.
Another provision enables "medically needy" students to opt out of state testing with approval from a doctor and the district superintendent.
The bill also allows for a "transition year" to the new grading formula. Schools would still receive grades in 2014-15, but they would not face consequences for poor performance.
The House bill differs slightly from the Senate bill, which gives middle schools credit for children who pass high-school level courses with statewide assessments.
The Senate bill does also not include the language about English Language Learners.
Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, D-Maitland, praised the new section. "You are giving them time to learn English before we test them," she said.
But Castor Dental echoed concerns from the state superintendents association and the statewide PTA that a one-year transition would not be enough.
Adkins has repeatedly said she does not think it makes sense to wait any longer because new standards are already being taught in Florida schools.
Said Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Erik Fresen, R-Miami: "All we are talking about is a one-year delay on the actual impact of the assessments. It's longer than we did with the first year of FCATs and [the] A+ [Plan]."