Florida Officials Make Grading Calculation Error

Education administrators in Florida have admitted failing to follow their own grading formula, having made an error grading nearly 50 of their schools.

The error means that 48 schools in South Florida will be issued higher grades. 17 of these schools are in Broward and 31 in Miami-Dade.

“A flawed accountability system that forgets to embed a critical element in its formula … is an accountability system that needs reform,” said Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho Monday. “And those that lead it need to consider the implications of their actions.”

The state’s accountability system was already under attack from parents concerned that their children were being over-tested needlessly, as well as teachers unhappy that their own evaluations are now linked to their students’ test scores. In addition, many educators have expressed concern that policy changes enforced by the state have been happening too quickly without proper consultation or consideration of the ramifications.

Carvalho joined the chorus of criticism, even though Miami-Dade schools benefited from the correction. “I have lost confidence in an accountability system that is not only ever-changing but fails to accurately depict student learning and the effectiveness of teachers,” he said.

Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie wasn’t as willing to condemn the state administrators for an error they owned up to quickly, but he believes that the state should reduce its focus on school grades and instead concentrate on improving learning outcomes — which would naturally lead to the current goal of higher school grades while being more likely to benefit individual students.

The grading error appears to have been the result of part of the overall calculation being skipped:

“Simply put, if these children somehow demonstrated learning gains — growth — that exceeded that of one full year of instruction, they should get an extra credit, extra points,” said Carvalho, who served on the task force.

But when the state DOE released school grades earlier this month, schools didn’t get credit for all of those gains. At some point after the release, state education administrators reviewed the grades and “found the missing piece of the calculation,” spokeswoman Cheryl Etters wrote in an email.

These bonus points were added to the formula this year by Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson, one of thirty changes made this year. The extent of the changes and the apparent failure of support services to ensure proper understanding and implementation of these changes by graders would suggest that critics who believe that policy changes are happening too quickly may have a point.

07 26, 2012
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