State Board approves safety net to protect school grades
After some hand wringing over whether Florida’s school grading system remains valid, the state Board of Education on Tuesday agreed to tweak the formula so schools are buffered from multiple letter-grade drops.
The board agreed that the grades, which are due out by the end of the month, will not decline by more than one letter regardless of student performance on the FCAT tests that underlie the system.
“I don’t think it’s productive at this point to penalize these schools by dropping their letter grades,” recently appointed board member John Colon said, voicing his support for commissioner Tony Bennett’s recommendation.
The 4-3 vote marked the second time in two years that the board has changed the grading system after test results indicated that school grades would decline. Members Sally Bradshaw, John Padget and Kathleen Shanahan opposed the measure.
“I don’t understand when it became acceptable to disguise and manipulate the truth simply because the truth is uncomfortable,” Sally Bradshaw, a former chief of staff to Jeb Bush, said in opposition.
Unlike last year, when dramatic drops in test scores prompted a public outcry, with more than 800 people dialing into a state board meeting, there were just three comments today. One of them came from Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
Carvalho called it a case of "double jeopardy." Standards and cut scores were raised a year ago, he said, and it was only natural to see a drop in scores or stagnant performance. He said if the board wasn't sure about the validity of the system then the only fair thing to do was to vote in favor of the safety net.
Bradshaw said without the safety net there would be 756 A schools and 262 F schools. With the provision, there would be the same number of As and 108 F schools.
Last year, about 388 schools - or about 15 percent of 2,588 schools graded - benefited. Of those, 57 were in the Tampa Bay area.
See the complete story here and watch for updates during the day.
Staff Writer Cara Fitzpatrick contributed to this item.