Florida Board of Ed to Tweak Accountability Standards – Again

David Smiley of the Miami Herald reports that Florida's school accountability standards might receive some tweaks in coming monthsprior to the release of school assessment data. The state's Board of Education will revise the school rating system for the second year in a row after predictions of steeper-than-expected drops from the introduction of more rigorous assessment standards.

Florida's new Education Commissioner Tony Bennett announced that he will look into forming a taskforce to examine the standards as soon as he returns to work next week. The board recommended that three superintendents from the Florida Association of District School Superintendents also have another look to make sure that the state remains on the right track with the new standards.

Superintendents of districts around the state have been criticizing the board for weeks for changing the accountability standards too frequently, including changing point values on elements like FCAT scores and student performance. Board members justified the changes by explaining that they're looking at the best way to prepare the state schools for the adoption of Common Core Standards in the 2014-15 academic year.

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho attended Tuesday's meeting and stressed that while increasing standards is appropriate, the Board had created through its many changes a "multi-variate" impact that state didn't fully understand. He expects Miami-Dade's school grades to drop despite strong FCAT scores.

"You do not know or understand the cumulative impact of these changes," he said, calling on the board to bring back a measure last year that kept school grades from falling by more than one letter. "There ought to be a safety net."

The superintendents also want board members to lower the proficiency score for writing exams which this year was raised to 3.5. Last year, the board voted to lower the score from 4.0 to 3.0 after unexpectedly high exam failure rates were reported.

The board also allowed districts some flexibility with reporting the scores of centers that cater to special needs students if they were willing to accept a "needs improvement" rating instead of a letter grade.

The latter, related to requirements in Florida's federal waiver from punitive No Child Left Behind measures, has been ripped by Carvalho and Miami-Dade School Board members. The district chose to have the state grade its district's disability centers rather than have teachers and principals measured based on scores from students they didn't oversee.

Those centers received F grades.

Carvalho again on Tuesday called on board members to stop "assigning a scarlet letter" to disability centers.

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