Florida Commish Stewart Insists That School Grading System Stays

Superintendents in Florida who were hoping to dodge the state's new grading system will not find an ally in education commissioner Pam Stewart, who said she is opposed to requests from local schools that the state should suspend the grading system while they are adapting to new statewide exams and learning benchmarks replacing the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

 "I don't think suspending school grading is the right thing to do for students," Stewart said during a State Board of Education meeting at Miami Lakes Educational Center.

This meeting was a forerunner for an important State Board meeting that will be held in February where state board members will hear Stewart's recommendations for a new simplified school grading system and will vote on proposed revisions and the renaming of Common Core State Standards. Common Core set new expectations for students at each grade level and was adopted by 45 states, but school officials are concerned about how schools will transition to these standards and how they will perform on a new unnamed state test. This led the Florida Association of District School Superintendents to ask for a three year suspension of the grading system that would start next year.

Miami-Dade Superintendent Carvalho proposed the request:

"There is a way of creating a transitional accountability system that includes a direct, legible and easily understood school report card for parents and business leaders without necessarily imposing a letter grade during this transitional period," he said.

David Smiley reports in The Miami Herald that no vote has been taken, but Stewart's comments show that the Florida Department of Education plans on continuing grading schools. She has no plans on recommending stopping the school grades, but suggests she may issue the new unnamed test next school year then set "cut scores" determining student performance and issuing school grade results in November 2015.

Stewart stressed that Florida's grading system is good at driving student improvements and just needs more transparency. She also is defending her recommendation to make nearly 100 changes to the Common Core State Standards.

Her recommendations included keeping Florida's calculus benchmarks for high schoolers, bringing back cursive and print writing in elementary school grades, and relabeling the Common Core as the "Florida Standards" in a nod to concerns that the new standards are part of a federal overreach into education.

Board member John Padget says that Florida Standards for math are higher than the Common Core standards.

Stewart's recommendation for a company to come up with the new state wide exam should come as planned in March. The test will not be filed before next school year to ensure that it will be aligned with what students are learning.

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