No Child Left Behind vs. A+ System

The Florida Department of Education wants the feds to change the way it calculates adequate yearly progress, and parents and schools are hoping it’s not just a numbers game.

Fewer than one out of four schools in Florida made adequate yearly progress last year under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, but Jeb Bush’s A+ system gave most schools an A or B. The governor says the gap shouldn’t be that wide. He wants the feds to take into account the size and diversity of Florida schools to get a clearer picture of how we’re doing.

Gov. Jeb Bush says, “All of the tangible evidence suggests we’re on the right track, although there is still a long way to go, and we want to put the federal, our interpretation of the federal guidelines, in sync with that.”

The state Education Department wants the feds to consider the growing number of special needs students in deciding whether a school has made adequate yearly progress. Florida also wants to lower federal “proficiency targets” in reading and math over the next couple of years to give students more time to come up to speed.

But critics say it should be more than just changing the formulas around. They want to see a stronger effort to help struggling schools.

Damien Filer represents a coalition of parents and educators fighting for better schools.

Damien Filer of Communities for Quality Education says, “What we’re hearing a lot from school districts is that they want some input on how to fix things. This system seems to be pretty good at recognizing problems; not as good at offering solutions.”

In the meantime, Florida hopes the feds accept its proposed changes to No Child Left Behind in time to get a better report card this year. Millions of dollars in federal funding is at stake.

Florida Education Commissioner John Winn insists changing how numbers are calculated doesn’t mean Florida is lowering its standards.