More C’s, Fewer A’s with Florida’s Tougher School Grading System

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

Florida's yearly A to F school report card has been released, and the data showed that many fewer schools earned high grades compared to the grades from last year. One of the reasons was that schools were judged on a new, and much more stringent, formula.

Last year, 1,184 schools across the state earned the top A-rated grade, while this year only 741 schools made the top score. Not receiving the prime rating means that those schools lost their chance for extra state money. The number of schools that received a rating of C rose from 880 to 1,246.

One parent of a senior at Winter Springs High School in Seminole County, Bobbie Demme-San Filippo, said that the high school dropped from a grade of A to a C, which she called a "misrepresentation," report Leslie Postal and Annie Martin for the Orlando Sentinel.

"From being on the inside, I see the work done from the administration all the way to parents to serve these kids," said Demme-San Filippo, chairman of the school advisory council. "I know last year's efforts measure up in every way to the year before."

Demme-San Filippo added that she brought her family to the county because of the reputation of the school district, and now she is concerned that the lower rating for the school may also affect property values in the area. Teacher bonuses are also affected by school grades.

Florida was the first state to adopt a school grading system when it was introduced in 1999. Usually, the state provides $100 per student to schools with top or most improved grades. Lower ratings also bring more state involvement with schools.

This year the scale's formula was changed based on the percentage of students who pass the state's standardized tests and on the portion of students who achieve what are called "learning gains."

Seminole County School Superintendent said the new scoring formula should be considered as "baseline data" from which the state can begin to grade schools more appropriately. Orange County Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said:

"The time is just prime for looking at a different kind of accountability system. I think the usefulness of single letter grades has probably come to a conclusion at this point."

Broward and Miami-Dade Counties maintained their overall grade for the district, which was B. Palm Beach County went from an A to a B this year. Only three districts in Florida were rated A this year — St. Johns, Sarasota, and Okaloosa counties, reports Scott Travis of the Sun-Sentinel.

Palm Beach County Deputy Superintendent David Christensen noted that many of the county's low-performing, weak schools improved based on the new testing. These schools were struggling, but showed improvement.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said she was pleased that the state's focus on students who are struggling the most is paying off. She noted that among schools that rated D or F last year, 58% had increased their grade in 2016. She continued by saying:

"The great benefit of our state's accountability system is that it constantly shines a light on areas that need improvement."

Pinellas County Superintendent Michael A. Grego said that even though the standards in the state have become more demanding, and student assessments have become more rigorous, he believes there is cause for celebration in the Pinellas district. Pinellas schools made significant improvements.

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