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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

School grades shouldn't drop more than one letter in a year, education commissioner says



Despite his skepticism, Florida education commissioner Tony Bennett has proposed that the state continue to prevent schools from dropping more than one letter grade in a year.

Bennett’s recommendation comes at the 11th hour — school grades are expected to be released this month — and at the urging of superintendents. The “safety net” provision was implemented in 2012 to mitigate the damage from the state’s fast push for tougher standards. 

Superintendents had argued that it would be confusing to the public, and possibly hurt the state’s accountability system, if school grades dropped this year despite stable test scores. Last year, the state waged a public relations battle after implementation of harder tests and higher passing scores resulted in some dramatic drops in test scores.

A last-minute move last year by the State Board of Education to change the passing score on the FCAT writing test was viewed by many as a way to pad school grades.

During a meeting with a panel of educators earlier this month, Bennett suggested that he thought it would be “misleading” to continue protecting schools’ grades. 

“If you’re really a D, but you get a C...”This is an issue where I’m kind of struggling,” he said. “It is not really in the spirit of transparency.”

Bennett will ask the state board to vote on his proposal Tuesday. 

In a letter to the board released Friday, Bennett said his proposal was to minimize the number of changes to the state's accountability system as Florida transitions away from the FCAT and to the Common Core.

Bennett said his recommendations weren't made to "soften the blow of higher standards or to reduce the number of failing schools."

The commissioner also recommended that the state not apply the scores of students in ESE centers back to their "home" schools, something that some superintendents had argued was unfair. 

[Last modified: Friday, July 12, 2013 11:32am]


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