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District appeals Land O'Lakes High's "C' ranking

Pasco County school administrators have asked the state to reconsider Land O'Lakes High School's mediocre ranking on the state testing program this past spring.

Land O'Lakes received a grade of "C" this summer, after too few students scored well enough on the state's multiple-choice reading exam. Students fared much better on the section of the exam that includes essay and extended-response questions, but those scores weren't included in the ranking system. School officials say all scores should be considered.

If those higher, excluded scores were included in the rating, Land O'Lakes would have received an "A," the highest ranking, which would have brought with it an estimated $185,500 in state bonus money.

Last school year was the third during which the state rated its schools based on the results of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. The state was criticized two years ago when school scores and ratings were delayed months because the company hired to grade the tests couldn't get the job done on time.

To avoid future delays, the state decided last year that it would base rankings on the multiple choice part of the exam. The multiple choice parts are scored quickly with computers, while the other parts of the test must be evaluated by hand and weren't finished until September.

Using only the multiple choice scores, Land O'Lakes missed scoring an "A" by 3 percentage points on its students' reading tests. But when the tests' full results came in, Land O'Lakes administrators realized their reading scores were good enough to earn an A and the accompanying bonus money.

"I'll be real disappointed if the appeal is denied," principal Max Ramos said. "Essentially, we're being penalized for doing a good job and teaching the more difficult skills" needed to correctly answer the excluded essay and short-response questions.

Katherine Divine, the district administrator in charge of testing, said state education officials indicated to her in earlier conversations that they would not recalculate school rankings once the hand-scored parts of the exam were finished.

Superintendent John Long wrote to the state last week asking that the school's ranking be adjusted.