Sunday, April 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: School grading system needs more than a Band-Aid

When one of Florida's staunchest defenders of school accountability says the state needs to throw out its formula for grading schools, lawmakers should pay attention. The state Board of Education on Tuesday narrowly approved another round of changes to the A+ Plan school grading formula to ensure that no school's 2012-13 grade drops by more than one letter grade this year from last. But the decision came about only after a surreal discussion that suggested more allegiance to a bureaucratic construct than real accountability. The best hope now is that lawmakers and education officials will do a better job as they build a new accountability formula starting in 2014-15 based on Common Core State Standards exams.

It would have been unthinkable a few years ago for Kathleen Shanahan of Tampa, a former chief of staff to then-Gov. Jeb Bush, to say the A+ system had become invalid. But that's what she said Tuesday, suggesting the state would be better off just not giving grades for a year as the board considered for a second time delaying the impact of tougher FCAT passage scores. "We've overcomplicated the model, and I don't think it's a statistically valid model" anymore, she said.

But four of the other six board members embraced new Education Commissioner Tony Bennett's recommendation to tweak the formula once again to ensure that no school's grade dropped precipitously. Some of the state's most respected superintendents had warned that the ratchetting up of FCAT passage scores threatened to penalize even schools that were seeing improvements in student performance. In other words, their grades could have dropped even as their scores rose.

Bennett rejected Shanahan's suggestion that the state just take a year off from issuing grades, saying state law required them. Then he added, apparently not meaning to be ironic: "I believe as a purist on accountability that taking a break from accountability is very simply bad policy," Bennett said.

That sentiment is only valid if the accountability is actually transparent and consistent, something no one in Tallahassee even tries to argue anymore. So school grades that will be released this month may have little correlation to reality. Unfortunately, they will have real impacts on each school's funding and teacher bonuses.

The school grading system needs some accountability of its own. Until the state comes up with a meaningful, rational system of school grades, an A won't be an A, and the system itself will continue to earn a failing grade. You could give it an F.

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Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18