THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, July 24, 2012
Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida
The Florida Department of Education is once again dealing with the fallout from test scores and school grades, this time after admitting that dozens of grades released earlier this month were mistaken.
In all, 213 schools and nine districts had to have their grade revised as part of a "continuous review process," according to the agency. The move affects 8 percent of the schools in the state. All of the scores increased by a single letter grade.
"School grades are important to students, parents, teachers, principals, administrators and the community," Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson announced. "And, while I am pleased that the continuous review process has resulted in better grades, we will continue to look for ways to improve the grade calculation process."
The changes, announced after the close of business day Friday, eased some of what had been a dramatic drop in the grades so far. The number of "A" schools, for example, had plummeted from 1,481 in 2011 to 1,124 this year. That number is instead 1,240 -- representing a jump of 5 percentage points in the number of schools getting the highest grade.
And the number of "D" and "F" grades had climbed to 285. But 35 of those schools have apparently been removed by moving from a "D" to a "C," while another seven schools moved from "F" to "D." The grades include elementary and middle schools as well as elementary and middle-school programs at combination campuses.
Schools in 40 counties were affected by the grade changes, with Miami-Dade County seeing the most revisions by far at 31. Duval County was second with 19, Pinellas had 18, while Broward, Hillsborough and Orange County each saw 17 schools increase their grades.
Other districts that saw their marks go up were Collier, Desoto, Gadsden, Hillsborough, Okeechobee, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco and Union.
The grade changes are the latest in a series of problems that have roiled the state's school accountability system in recent months. Because of the inclusion of students with disabilities and English language learners, the State Board of Education approved a policy keeping all schools from dropping more than a letter grade.
The FCAT itself was snared in a crisis when passing scores on the writing test collapsed from 81 percent to 27 percent for fourth graders and showed similar drops in eighth and 10th grades.
The board eventually met in emergency session to lower the passing grade from 4.0 to 3.0 while they develop a long-term answer.
And in June, the Florida School Boards Association approved a scathing resolution about the state's testing regimen, saying "the over-emphasis on standardized testing has resulted in a variety of unintended consequences that diminish the quality of the educational program, including stifling student engagement, narrowing the curriculum, reducing student access to elective and other desired courses, and impeding the recruitment and retention of excellent teachers and administrators."