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Panicked About Big Drop, Superintendents Want School Grades Artificially Held Up

| July 2, 2013

Better yet: schools could give themselves their own grade. (Ryan Stanton)

Better yet: schools could give themselves their own grade. (Ryan Stanton)

Superintendents from across the state pressed Education Commissioner Tony Bennett to consider limiting how much school grades will drop this year during a meeting Monday.

Curbing the possible declines in school scores — which would essentially continue a policy from last year allowing the marks to drop no more than a letter grade at each school — was one of several recommendations the superintendents made during a meeting of a task force Bennett put together at the request of the State Board of Education.

Bennett is set to report his findings back to the board, likely in mid-July, to help limit the fallout when the next round of school report cards is rolled out. Bennett’s predecessor, Gerard Robinson, resigned shortly after a botched release of school grades last year, though Robinson said he was leaving to spend more time with his family.

The superintendents say that some of the data they’re getting back as they do the initial calculations for the report cards seem to be off — but they don’t know why. Part of the problem, they say, is that the state has implemented 13 changes this year alone to the state’s accountability system for schools — making it harder to meet the standards and harder to figure out what’s going wrong.

“If we had just done one or two of these, it might have been digestible,” said Escambia County Superintendent Malcolm Thomas. “But the fact that we’re doing all of this … it has become very traumatic.”

The school chiefs said they don’t want the state to lower its standards per se, but to consider raising them in a more predictable manner. In the meantime, they said, the state should consider temporarily continuing the policy limiting grade drops and asking a third party to look at the data and figure out what’s wrong.

“It is not because we’re afraid there will be too many Fs,” said Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, who also serves as CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. “The reason for that is because of the uncertainty of the system itself.”

Asked how seriously he was considering recommending a continuation of the temporary limits on grade drops to the board, Bennett was noncommittal, stressing that everything was on table.

“I’m as serious about that as everything else,” he said.

In all, the superintendents say about three dozen changes to the way the state grades schools have been made over the last three years. And as that cycle has intensified, Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said, one of the mantras of school reform efforts has started to lose its validity.

“When we say that, ‘every time we raise the standards, student performance increases,’ [that] used to be true in the state of Florida,” he said. “Since 2009, it has not”

There are also worries about how any loss of confidence in the testing system by the public and educators could impact the introduction of the “common core standards,” a national set of benchmarks for curriculum.

The superintendents also expressed frustration at the fact that the state hasn’t spent more time trying to educate the public on the possibility that school grades could fall even as students were learning more.

“The canvas is still blank, and when you have a blank canvas, all kinds of people start painting on it,” Carvalho said.

–Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida

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13 Responses for “Panicked About Big Drop, Superintendents Want School Grades Artificially Held Up”

  1. Agnese says:

    Why?? So they can keep their inflated salaries ??

  2. Ogreagain says:

    Your only cheating the kids when you don’t give them their true scores. Let’s just be honest, this state doesn’t want to fund education. so your going to rank at the bottom. we’re better off funding 4-h and FFA,and vocation schools

  3. Ayn Rand's Spleen says:

    It seems to me that if k-12 educators were doing their jobs successfully the pass rates on these tests would be adequate regardless of how the test is designed, assuming that the test is fair and covers the expected level of knowledge that students are supposed to have at the point that they take them. I also know from experience that the only thing schools in florida care about at this point is fcat pass rates, so I surmise that the issue here is the fact that changing things up means that they’ll have to relearn how to teach to the test.

  4. tom jack says:

    The education system is the poorest of all 50 states. They cut school hours and only seem interested in giving teachers and administrators more money to do nothing.

  5. RG says:

    I will admit im not an expert on education. Why not start placing all under achievers students in one classroom and average to over achievers in another. As for under achieving teachers that are union protected out the door. This country can only withstand so many of the graduates and or dropouts that think that 2+2 = 22.

  6. Dlf says:

    May be we should hold another $100,000 special election to see what to do. Again we do not want to see what our dollars are doing or hold any of the so called teachers or school boards feet to the fire. I wonder why?

  7. A.S.F. says:

    Gee, there must have been a lot of readers on this forum who had bad experiences with their teachers when they were young! Teachers do a tough job that many of us in our prime wouldn’t have lasted a week doing. Everyone has a part to play in the proper education of our youth and dumping all this invective on teachers isn’t going to help improve the situation. While I don’t see that simply throwing money at the problem would make it go away, and I agree that school board members salaries should be adjusted to put them in line with reality, a more thorough investigation into the line item budget and review of both curriculim and programs, and the overall allocation of available funds, would seem to be in order. Don’t let us settle for kicking the nearest dog as an easy (but just plain wrong) solution to our problems. The education of our children is too important!

    • Liz says:

      “Gee, there must have been a lot of readers on this forum who had bad experiences with their teachers when they were young!”

      Maybe true but definitely tragic…

  8. r&r says:

    That’s cheating !! Is that what’s being tought in schools nowdays.. Cheat to win.. What a poor example to set for kids..

  9. Nancy N. says:

    Gee, you continually raise standards for student achievement while continually taking resources away from students and teachers – and then are shocked and horrified that student achievement doesn’t rise to meet the new higher goals you set?

    Someone needs to take a logic course.

  10. brian says:

    grades are bad because kids now of days are morons..teachers are baby sitters for all the little parents at home helping the little angels study, so the teachers can teach and not police are these kids badddddddddd and getting worse by the discipline+no morals=todays kids…VERY NICE INDEEDY..

  11. Sherry Epley says:

    And CHEATING on test scores. . . what a horrible example for the students, and of our quickly deteriorating society. The lack of ethics shown to even consider such an option is nothing short of astounding! Has our culture really gotten to the place that acquiring the almighty buck is the motivation and justification for throwing all civilized and religious values completely out the window? Lying, cheating, stealing. . . is that all perfectly fine now?

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