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Facing Tougher Standards, Florida 2012 School Grades Drop

Fewer Florida schools earned an ‘A’ on the state’s annual report card, while more schools saw their grades drop to ‘C’, ‘D’ and ‘F,’ according to state Department of Education data released this morning.

Last year 58 percent of Florida elementary and middle schools earned a ‘A’ grade. This year the percentage fell to 43 percent. That’s 357 fewer schools earning a ‘A.’

At the other end of the spectrum, an additional 16 schools earned an ‘F’ — a total of 47.

The percentage of schools earning ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D’ grade also increased, with the number of ‘D’ schools nearly doubling.

Grades were expected to drop after state education officials raised standards on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test exams which help determine school grades.

Florida schools were also required to test more students with disabilities and those learning English in order for Florida to be granted an exemption from portions of the federal No Child Left Behind law. Adding those students helped lower overall test scores, school officials have said.

The drop in FCAT score created alarm for students, parents, educators and school board members who worried about the public appearance falling school grades would create. In response to those concerns, the Florida Board of Education decided school grade could only drop by one letter this year.

Today’s grades do not include high schools, which also factor in the percentage of students taking and passing accelerated courses such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate.

“Florida has raised expectations for school grades five times in the past ten years,” the state department said in a press release. “The results show that after an initial drop, school grades improved consistently in the years that followed.”

Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson said the tougher standards were crucial for better preparing Florida students for college or the workforce.

Crtics argue the state’s school grade formula is based on a faulty test and does not provide an accurate measure of school quality.

“Ever-changing rules for calculating FCAT scores and Tallahassee’s secretive formula for determining school grades fail to provide Florida parents, educators and taxpayers with useful information about the quality of their public schools,” said Bob Schaeffer of FairTest, which opposes the emphasis placed on standardized testing. “In fact, school grades have historically reflected the percentage of students living in poverty in each district, not anything meaningful about learning or teaching.”

We’re still digging into the data. Check back with StateImpact Florida later for more.

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