Making the Grade

A group of Florida educators is demanding reform of the No Child Left Behind Act. The critics say there are too many discrepancies between Florida’s school grading system and the federal system, and not enough options for parents.

The reform advocates are kicking off a statewide campaign this week to draw attention to the issue.

Kimberly Vann and her three young children live in rural Jefferson County. The county’s elementary school has consistently ranked in the bottom of Florida’s school grading system, and Kimberly says her bright little boy isn’t learning anything.

Kimberly says, “He doesn’t even want to go to school now because he’s bored. He says it’s too easy and he doesn’t want to go. He likes his third grade reading class, but he says that’s too easy now, too.”

But Florida’s School Choice program won’t help Kimberly’s family. Although state rules allow parents to transfer a child if their school fails two or more years in a row, there is only one elementary school in the district.

The problem also exists in large urban districts, where transportation or racial integration requirements also prevent transfers.

The problem becomes even more frustrating for parents because federal and state guidelines are different. This school improved from an F to a C school last year, but it still failed the federal No Child Left Behind requirements.

The State Department of Education was unable to provide an on-camera explanation of how schools can pass state requirements but fail the federal guidelines.

Damien Filer is with a new coalition called Communities for Quality Education. The coalition says it’s time for the feds and the state to focus on fixing broken schools instead of assigning passing or failing grades that contradict each other.

Damien Filer communities for quality education. Right now when you have almost 80 percent of what the state calls “A schools” the Federal government calls failing schools, they’re not communicating, and that’s sending a very mixed message and a lot of frustration to communities, so the first thing they need to do is get on the same page.

In the meantime, the Vann family and thousands like them are left feeling trapped by a system that’s not meeting their needs.

DOE spokeswoman Frances Marine says the reform group’s complaints are purely political and are doing a disservice to parents.