Thursday, February 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: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18