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Education

State Board Of Education Approves School Grade “Safety Net”

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Florida school grades will drop by no more than a single letter grade this year after the State Board of Education approved temporary changes to the school grading system.

But the issue revealed a divide among board members about the value of the state’s school grading system.

Board member Sally Bradshaw said the changes would only protect the self-esteem of adults leading school districts while ignoring students receiving a substandard education. Other board members said the school grading system needed an overhaul.

“We’ve overcomplicated the system,” said board member Kathleen Shanahan. “I don’t think it’s a statistically relevant model.”

The board adopted two changes proposed by Education Commissioner Tony Bennett: No school grade can drop by more than a single letter; and students who attend special education centers and have not attended a traditional school will no longer count toward the grade of their “home” school.

Board member Sally Bradshaw strongly objected to the changes.

“I don’t understand when it became acceptable to disguise and manipulate the truth just because the truth has become uncomfortable,” she said.

Bradshaw noted 756 school would receive an ‘A’ grade under the system, but the changes would increase the number of ‘F’ schools to 262 from 108. Schools earning ‘F’ grades receive additional help to improve their performance.

Bradshaw, John Padget and Kathleen Shanahan voted against the changes.

Bennett did not recommend lowering the target score for writing portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test — an idea supported by some district superintendents. Florida is adopting new, tougher education standards in 2014, and Bennett said those standards will emphasize writing.

Bennett also said those new standards, known as Common Core, will force the state to revise the school grading system.

School grades are calculated based student scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, including how much student scores improved from one year to the next and the scores of the lowest-performing quarter of students. High school grades also factor in graduation rates, scores on college placement exams and the percentage of students taking accelerated courses, such as Advanced Placement or dual enrollment.

You can check Florida high school grades here.

You can search for elementary and middle school grades here.