Making the Grade?

Parents across Florida find out on Tuesday what letter grade their child’s school got for the year, and they will also learn whether the school makes the grade under federal guidelines, but that picture could prove confusing for parents trying to sort it all out.

Parent Felicia Worlds-Jones will be watching when the state unveils its new report cards for Florida schools. The report cards will combine school grades based on FCAT scores with how the school rates under federal No Child Left Behind Act requirements.

Felicia says it’s a lot of information to sort through, but she wants only the best for her children.

Felicia says, “It is very confusing, but the most important thing is that the school stays on top of what they’re teaching the kids so they can pass these tests.”

The report cards will be confusing for some parents. School grades measure how well that school’s students did on the FCAT and the No Child Left Behind Act measures how the school did in several other areas like racial balance and poverty level, so you can get two very different pictures of the same school.

Mackay Jimison with the State Department of Education says the more information, the better.

“We want our parents to be as informed as possible about what options are available to them and the progress that’s going on in Florida schools so they can make an accurate assessment of what their child needs and how they can continue to grow,” says Jimison.

If schools don’t make the grade, parents will be able to send their kids to a different public school or perhaps even get a voucher for private school, but educators say parents shouldn’t rush to transfer their children to a different school based on its report card.

Paul Felsch with Leon County schools says, “You need to go actually see the site. Talk to the principal, talk to the assistant principal and the teacher because sometimes a school grade or the No Child Left Behind designation doesn’t tell the whole story. There might be a school that has a slightly better grade perhaps, but maybe it doesn’t fit your child’s needs.”

Officials are hoping parents will use the new report cards to make an educated choice. Officials estimate students in more than 1,200 schools will be eligible to transfer to a different public school because their school didn’t meet the federal requirements for a second year in a row.