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Pinellas charter school flagged for sixth-grade math test



Seven Pinellas County schools have yet to receive their school grades from the state, which were released last month.

Those schools instead received an "incomplete" grade, which is usually given because schools did not test 95 percent of the eligible student body, a benchmark set by Florida law.

But the sixth grade Florida Standards Assessments mathematics results from Pinellas Preparatory Academy, a Largo charter school, were suspicious enough to be flagged by the Florida Department of Education. A letter sent June 29 instructs the Pinellas school district to conduct an internal investigation into answer similarities, which include interviews for all administrators and coordinators involved in the testing process and at least 10 percent of students in that test group.

The state's algorithm is set up to identify schools with "statistically improbable results" on statewide exams by examining eraser marks on tests and answer similarity rates. Pasco County education reporter Jeffrey S. Solochek explains the matrix here.

Like Trinity Oaks Elementary in Pasco, PPA also received a Similarity Rate Index of 38.

Rick Wolfe, who oversees charter schools for the Pinellas school district, said usually no wrongdoing is found in schools that are flagged.

"It’s usually just kind of a formality, it just happens every year," he said. "I think it’s just the way the system works."

Pinellas' assessment, accountability and research executive director Dan Evans said in a statement that his department is cooperating with the FLDOE.

"This is a routine inquiry that sometimes occurs as part of the state's review of results by school," he said.

Shawn Arnold, a charter school attorney representing PPA, declined to comment or speculate on what may have gone wrong because of privacy rights of students and teachers. He estimated that the investigation would conclude around the end of August.

"We have very little information on what happened," he said.

PPA, which has a nearly straight-A track record, is not the first charter or district-operated school to be flagged. Last year, Athenian Academy, a Clearwater charter school, received an I grade because its Erasure Index was 20.6, meaning tests were found to have unusual amount of eraser marks. A district investigation that concluded November 2016 found that no wrongdoing or testing irregularities were discovered, and the school was given a C grade.

And in 2014, Bay Point Elementary in St. Petersburg received a Similarity Rate Index of 16.1. Investigators also said they found no wrongdoing and the school was also given a C grade.

Pinellas school district spokeswoman Lisa Wolf said the district believes Carwise Middle in Palm Harbor's true grade was delayed this year because of a labeling issue. She said 94.17 percent of students were tested at Seminole High, falling just under the 95 percent threshold.

Four other schools -- Pinellas Teleschool, Pinellas Homebound, Florida Virtual Academy at Pinellas (which closed) and Plato Academy Pinellas Park -- also did not test 95 percent of students, Wolf said.

[Last modified: Tuesday, July 11, 2017 7:29pm]


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