Pressure continues to mount on school grading proposal

Published Feb. 24, 2012

Complaints first arose from parents of kids with students in special education programs. Next came the superintendents association, followed by the advocates of students still learning English.

Now a growing coalition of parents from several of Florida's largest counties, including Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach and Duval has set forth its opposition to some key components of the school grading proposal that goes to the State Board of Education on Tuesday.

This group, which has also taken vocal stances on charter school and parent trigger legislation, had particular issues with the provisions in the pending rule that would have more special education and English-language learning children be held more accountable for making FCAT learning gains than in the past.

"These students have always had to show learning gains, but they were not factored into the school's grade. Though many of these children make incredible gains within their abilities, they would still be deemed failures under this new grading system. Parents and teachers know this is simply unfair.

"Politicians and education bureaucrats often express that there are "too many" A and B schools. These new rules are a deliberate effort to quickly thrust some of our best performing schools into the D and F categories, label them with "intervene" status and make them eligible to be taken over by for-profit charter corporations. Under this scenario, Florida's ESE and ELL children will be at great risk and the significance of their achievements will be lost."

Education commissioner Gerard Robinson said late Thursday that these matters remain under review, although he mostly defended the proposal as the next step on the path to "intelligent reform." Many superintendents and parent groups have indicated they will make presentations to the State Board at its Tallahassee meeting. If you can't make it but want to watch, the meetings are webcast at a link on the board's website.