Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Education

School officials critical of Gov. Scott's plan to release school ranking

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Monday will release a ranking of the state's 67 school districts based on standardized test scores, his office confirmed late Friday.

Top school officials in Florida are fuming. They argue that examining test scores alone overlooks factors such as poverty and racial diversity, which have been shown to affect educational outcomes.

Scott's chief of staff says the governor is willing to recalculate the ranking to reflect those factors.

But for now, the plan is to release the ranking at 10 a.m. Monday.

"The governor believes that we ought to be transparent, and the information being released is merely information that is available to the public and already compiled," chief of staff Steve MacNamara said.

The controversy started early Friday, when a St. Johns County School Board member sent out an email saying her district was No. 1, according to a Florida Times-Union report.

A St. Johns school district spokesman told the Times-Union that superintendent Joe Joyner had indeed spoken with the Education Department but would not comment further.

Some districts were left in the dark.

Hillsborough school officials said they hadn't been notified about the ranking.

"We've got no official notice," said Connie Milito, the district's chief government relations officer.

Broward superintendent Robert Runcie said he had not received a call either.

The board of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents held a conference after learning of Scott's plan.

"The board expressed concern — and rightfully so — that this ranking of the school districts is based only on one factor, and that is FCAT performance," chief executive officer Bill Montford said.

Montford, who is also a Democratic state senator from Tallahassee, said he shared those concerns at a meeting with Scott — and that the governor was receptive.

"I believe that the next step will be a comprehensive look at all of the factors that go into student performance," Montford said. "Then we will have a much more complete and accurate snapshot."

MacNamara said the ranking is nothing more than a composite of information that is already in the public domain.

Florida school districts receive an annual letter grade from the state Department of Education based on Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores. Most districts receive an A or a B.

But state Board of Education Vice Chairman Roberto Martinez called ranking the districts based on test scores alone "a horrible idea."

Martinez said it would be unfair to compare diverse, urban districts such as Miami-Dade's and Hillsborough's with smaller districts serving more affluent children.

"The governor has been doing a lot of good things for education," Martinez said. "I don't know why in the world he would want to do a press conference on something that is overly simplistic, unmeritorious and could easily be misused."

Martinez added: "I hope that between now and Monday, someone will dissuade him from having that press conference."

Miami Herald staff writer Laura Figueroa contributed to this report.

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