Editorial: School numbers just don't add up

Published Dec. 20, 2013

Good high schools. Great faculty. Underperforming students. • That's the condensed version of recent education reports out of Tallahassee spawned by an accountability system gone awry. Apparently schools and teachers are doing great, it's just the students who aren't making the grade.

Gov. Rick Scott and local educators boasted last week that Florida high schools are doing above-average work. Some 240 high schools, or about 48 percent of Florida high schools, earned A's. And earlier this month, state reports showed a minuscule number of teachers with "unsatisfactory" job performance.

Yet Florida's graduation rate is below the national average, according to the U.S. Education Department. And these median four-year graduation rates, buried in the state's accountability formula, show the reality for Tampa Bay area students:

82 Percentage of Pasco students who graduated from A-rated high schools, meaning 18 percent missed graduation.

79 Percentage of Pinellas students who graduated from B-rated schools, meaning 21 percent were left behind. No school in the district scored less than a B.

75 Percentage of Hillsborough students who graduated from B-rated high schools, meaning 1 in 4 didn't graduate.

70 Percentage of Hernando students who graduated from C-rated high schools, meaning 30 out of 100 didn't graduate.

No matter what Tallahassee says, that's not good enough. It is time to overhaul Florida's school grading system, which has been so tweaked and massaged as to be divorced from reality. A system giving grades that parents, educators and students can't trust is an exercise without a purpose.