Pinellas, Hernando school districts brag about derided baseline grades as "improvements"
Florida's 2015 school grades became official Friday, concluding a monthslong saga over their validity and how superintendents across the state lost confidence in the new grading system. Some speculated that no one would care about the debut of the new grades based on the Florida Standardized Assessments.
But apparently Pinellas and Hernando counties, along with Duval County, still care. These three counties sent press releases Friday championing their improvements.
Pinellas and Duval both touted how their districts' grade of a B was the first since 2011. The headline on Hernando County's press release read: "HERNANDO COUNTY IMPROVES SCHOOL DISTRICT GRADE."
However, the Florida Department of Education sent this in an email to all superintendents Friday morning:
"It is important to note that the 2014-2015 preliminary informational baseline district and school grades do not include learning gains since that was the first school year the Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) were administered, nor does it include provisions, such as the safety net, which are now prohibited by law."
"Additionally, the preliminary informational baseline grades should not be compared to prior years’ results. These grades are a new starting point, based on new assessments with new student expectations and a new school grading model based on legislation adopted in 2014 and the State Board of Education rule adopted in January of this year. "
Pinellas County district spokeswoman Lisa Wolf said the district usually sends out a press release about school grades every year. "While we recognize this is a transitional year, the grades still give us a measure of how are students are performing."
She pointed out that the FSA is more rigorous than the previous assessment, FCAT 2.0, and that Pinellas had the lowest percentage of schools receiving a D or F grade out of the seven largest school districts in the state.
"It's important to remind readers that if you compare us to other districts similar to other size and makeup," Wolf said, "I think it's a meaningful comparison to make."
She said many groups, like parents and Parent Teacher Associations, take the grades seriously. "We felt it appropriate to share the information." She added that the grades are "not the only measure the district uses to measure student achievement."
Hernando County school district spokesman Patrick Keough said the district had no further comment beyond the press release.
Pinellas, Hernando, and Pasco counties all received a district grade of a B, while Hillsborough, which has the lowest graduation rate in Tampa Bay, received an A grade.