What do you think of Florida's proposed new school grading rules?
The advent of new Florida academic standards and tests has created an opportunity for the Department of Education to revise school grading rules at the same time it sets test cut scores. Some of the changes int the proposed rule are fairly significant.
For the first time, a school's grade would be based only on the components for which it has enough data. Instead of getting a zero for an area, that area would not be included:
"A school shall receive a grade based solely on the components for which it has sufficient data. Sufficient data exists when at least ten (10) students are eligible for inclusion in the calculation of the component. If a school has less than ten (10) eligible students with data for a particular component, that component shall not be calculated for the school."
The definition of learning gains, which would not be used until 2015-16 data is available, makes it more difficult for a student to attain a gain. In past years, for instance, a student could be considered to have made gains within Levels 1 and 2 on state tests without having a clear trajectory toward Level 3. New definitions would require students to rise to new subcategories within each level:
"Students who scored below Achievement Level 3 on the statewide standardized assessment or the Florida Alternate Assessment in the prior year and who advance from one subcategory within Achievement Level 1 or 2 in the prior year to a higher subcategory in the current year in same subject area. Achievement Level 1 is comprised of three (3) equal subcategories and Achievement Level 2 is comprised of two (2) equal subcategories."
Students in Levels 3 and 4 would have to have a higher scale score relative to the bottom of the cut number than in the year before. In the past, students would have been considered to have made gains simply by retaining a Level 3 or 4 score.
The rule would also alter the way a school's lowest performing 25 percent of students is counted. In past years, only students in Levels 1 and 2 on the state exam were included in this group. Under the proposal, students in Levels 3-5 also would be considered. The definition would read:
"'Students in the lowest 25 percent' means current year full-year-enrolled students whose prior year assessment scores are in the lowest performing 25 percent on the statewide standardized assessments in the subject areas of English language arts or mathematics for each school."
These recommended rules come amid a widespread call for the state to cancel school grades for 2014-15, in large part because learning gains cannot be calculated and the state law requires their use in grading. So far, though, state government leaders have rejected the "pause" idea.
As things stand, the Florida Board of Education is expected to adopt the school grading rule in January along with the test cut scores. See the department's recent rule-making workshop here. Send comments to the DOE via this link, for rule 6A-1.09981.