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Fail-Safe: Education Commissioner Recommends Artificial Prop-Up of School Grades

| July 15, 2013

SpongeBob demonstrates Florida's school accountability system.

SpongeBob demonstrates Florida’s school accountability system.

Education Commissioner Tony Bennett will ask the State Board of Education next week to prevent schools from dropping by more than one letter grade on the state report card in an effort to counter what superintendents say could be an alarming drop in grades.

Bennett’s recommendations, to be taken up at a specially called meeting Tuesday, are seen as an effort to avoid another botched rollout of the school grades after last year’s release became a public-relations headache for the Department of Education.

Bennett’s predecessor, Gerard Robinson, resigned a short time later, though Robinson said he was leaving to spend more time with his family.

The limit on any drop in school grades was one of the key recommendations that local superintendents offered Bennett during discussions last week. It would continue a policy started last year during the grades controversy. The superintendents say that some of the data they’re getting back as they do the initial calculations for the report cards this year 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 accountability system for schools — making it harder to meet the standards and harder to figure out what’s going wrong. Concerns about that complexity also hover over the state’s efforts to put in place the “Common Core State Standards,” which are based on national guidelines.

In a letter to state board members explaining his thinking, Bennett took pains to distance the school-grades proposal from any idea that it would water down the state’s accountability system.

“To be clear, my recommendations, outlined below, are made not to soften the blow of higher standards or to reduce the number of failing schools, but rather to advance the best policy for Florida’s students and position our state for a successful transition to full implementation of the CCSS (Common Core State Standards) in the 2014-2015 school year and beyond,” he wrote.

Bennett also recommended not including the scores of students at so-called “ESE centers,” which teach students with disabilities, in the grades of the schools they might otherwise attend. Currently, those students’ scores would count for the “home school” if the ESE center chooses to receive an alternative rating instead of a school grade.

But because grades are set to be released soon, Bennett said any changes to this year’s grades under that recommendation should be handled retroactively through an appeals process.

Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, said he saw the changes recommended by Bennett as a “good, reasonable response.” Montford, who also serves as the CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, took part in last week’s discussions.

“Clearly, I think this is a fair approach to it,” Montford said.

Montford said he was encouraged that Bennett was keeping the common core system in mind as he considered the changes.

Miami-Dade County Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who helped spearhead the drive for tweaking this year’s grades, was measured in his praise of the recommendations.

“We support the commissioner’s recommendations, especially the continuation of the temporary safety net that prevents schools from dropping more than one grade letter in a given year,” Carvalho said. “It is our hope, however, that the Florida Board of Education will consider polling districts for the ESE Center choice (rating or grading) prior to the release of school grades; otherwise, they will be branded as failing, and have to appeal.”

–News Service of Florida

15 Responses for “Fail-Safe: Education Commissioner Recommends Artificial Prop-Up of School Grades”

  1. DLF says:

    This will prepare the kids for the real world ? Another example, of the education system and the failure of the teachers and school boards. We are giving them a free ticket for failure in place of firing them and the kids will pay the price.

  2. You know what else would help schools from falling more than one letter grade in a year…the schools actually doing better. This is ridiculous.

  3. m&m says:

    That’s just great. Teach kids how to cheat to help line their pockets with tax payer dollars instead of fixing the problem. Get school boards and teachers that are educators and have them teach and disallow them to organize and have unions covering up them..

  4. Kip Durocher says:

    Fake ratings of Florida schools ~ sounds like a great idea.
    Superintendents don’t want the letter drop to cause them
    any headaches or pocket book pain.

    Why not fund them properly and hold them accountable.

    I remember when the Flottery lottery amendment was passed and
    “100% of the money would go to Florida education” ~ that has
    worked well for the massive, bloated overpaid administrative
    staff of the lottery main offices.

  5. Binkey says:

    I believe School grades were designed to make politicians and policy makers look and feel good and advance agenda. If the grades don’t look good, it is not beneficial to the politicians, so they protect the grades to protect themselves.

  6. Ayn Rand's Spleen says:

    This is total crap. The grades should be delivered as-is, because it will show which schools are teaching solid fundamentals and which schools are just teaching to a test.

  7. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    What a joke. For the cost of these tests and the stress it puts on children taking the, if you can’t get it right it’s time to get rid of them.

  8. MSFB says:

    Here we go, more dumbing down of youth of our country. Hey let’s not give them the grade they deserve, lets prop them up so they think they are smarter than they are… great liberal thinking! I work at a community college and most of the kids have to take remedial courses just to catch up. Yea…lets just keep em DUMB. What a wonderful system.

    • First of all, the students’ grades aren’t being propped up, it’s the schools’ grades. The rest of your comment makes little sense as you got that wrong.

      You also got wrong Bennett’s “liberal” thinking. He’s a republican from Indiana that was defeated in his “red” state because he was too conservative. The FEA strongly opposed his selection.

      Maybe, if you look, the community college has a remedial course in either reading comprehension or Googling so you aren’t so reliant on your own knee-jerk reactions and faulty narratives next time.

  9. Amanda says:

    How many of you were tested with a standardized test every single year when you were in school? I am still a young adult, and I was only tested once in elementary school and then the 10th grade proficiency to receive a proper HS diploma. Now, kids are tested to death. Perhaps the schools would have been rated the same had all this hoopla been around back then.

  10. Charles Gardner says:

    And every kid on the losing team should be given an MVP award?

  11. Gia says:

    Drop the grade again. All we have going out of Flagler schools is no more then a bunch of ignorant. No wonder why the manufacturing is made in India, China etc. Welcome to the 3rd world.

  12. Binkey says:


    The school grades were created and supported by conservatives, not the liberals. I could not tell you what the democrats plan for education would be. They have not been in charge for 12 years so who knows what their plan would be – if they even have one.

    Those of you saying how terrible the schools are doing without even knowing the grades have too much faith in the school grading system.

    It would be interesting to see what criteria is used to determine the schools grade. We look at the grade and accept it as A through F without considering what goes into creating these grades.

  13. Sad Times says:

    The debate about school grades is age old….. how about trying to correct the problem? There is no one RIGHT answer… but, truly a “mixed flower arrangement”…. that is… many things must happen before things can truly change. The following is just but a few ideas…. not all of the ideas… for improving the educational system…..

    1. Visit several of the school systems around the country… those who are at the top 10 or top 20 best schools lists… talk with the superintendents…observe class rooms….talk to teachers, etc…. in order to get ideas of “how to do it right.”

    2. Don’t cheat on the testing outcomes…. one of the reasons for testing is to find the holes in the curriculum…. and improve those areas….. Stop making testing a political thing. It is not.

    3. One of my biggest “soap box” items is addressed to the parents/caretakers of our children….. make education and learning a top priority…. starting at the time of birth. Many parents nowadays appear to worry more about their own things and their own needs…. at the expense of their children.

    Once a child comes into a person’s life… that child must come first….. a child needs love, time, and attention, and discipline. A parent’s “prime directive” should be…. prepare the child to be able to prosper, survive, and live on his/her own… by the age of 18.

    Prepare the child to be responsible for his/her own actions. All of this means…. parents….. stop being selfish…. require your child to be responsible for his/her own learning…. it cannot be just left to the educational systems. Schools are a conduit for learning….. you, the parents are the guides!

  14. Realty Check says:

    Yet they will ask over and over again for more money, the system is so broken I doubt it will ever be fixed. This is a complete joke, you do a poor job and ask to be graded on a curve, are you serious? I now know why our district is in the terrible shape it is, the state that runs it is in even more disrepair.

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