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Most Flagler Schools’ Grades Drop, Following State Trend, As Tougher Standards Kick In

| July 26, 2013

But they'll have to aim higher to get there from now on. (© FlaglerLive)

But they’ll have to aim higher to get there from now on. (© FlaglerLive)

School grades are dropping in Flagler County and across the state, and would have dropped precipitously more had the state Department of Education not convinced the state Board of Education to pad grades by preventing them from dropping by more than one letter grade overall this year—as was the case last year.

More than one fifth of Florida schools (550 of the 2618) benefited from the grade-padding provision that prevented letter grades from falling by more than one notch. Despite that, 107 elementary and middle schools received an F across the state, the highest number of failing schools since the high-stakes grading began, and almost triple the 40 that got F’s last year. The state graded 21 additional schools this year. Had the state not padded the grades, 261 schools would have been rated F.

In Flagler County, not a single school saw its grade improve, though three maintained their A rating: Indian Trails Middle School and Wadsworth and Belle Terre Elementary. Belle Terre has never known a grade other than an A since it opened in 2006.

But Buddy Taylor Middle saw its grade drop from a B to a C, Bunnell, Rymfire and Old Kings elementaries, as well as Imagine School at Town Center, the charter school, all saw their A drop to a B. Grades for Matanzas and Flagler Palm Coast High School will not be released until late fall or early winter.

Had the state not padded the grades, Bunnell and Rymfire Elementary would have seen their grades drop to a C.

Shawn Schmidli. (© FlaglerLive)

Shawn Schmidli. (© FlaglerLive)

For the district as a whole, an A rating will be virtually impossible. While that rating hasn’t yet been released, the district expects to maintain the B it received last year, after four straight years as an A district.

The weaker grades are a reflection of the Florida education system’s move toward tougher standards. In writing tests especially, the state now requires students to score a 3.5 on a scale of 6 in order to be considered proficient. In previous year, a 3 would have been sufficient, but proficiency under a 3 essentially inflated the quality of writing skills.

The percentage of students in Flagler County who earned a 3.5 this year dropped from 20 to 30 points, depending on the school.

The state is implementing tougher standards as it moves toward adoption of the national common core standards, which aim to challenge students more rigorously, and avoid the pitfalls of state-based tests, such as the old FCAT, that created artificially high standards. Those standards did not stand up to the rigors of nationally-normed analysis.

Put another way: while grades are falling, they are doing so for a good—and necessary—reason, as standards are rising and students are being challenged to perform better. The falling grades don’t mean that students are falling behind, but that they are re-adjusting to harder standards, and are expected to eventually meet those higher standards.

“We didn’t want to enter common core without having some sort of transition period,” Shawn Schmidli, the Flagler County school district’s curriculum and accountability specialist, said. “That’s really what we see here as we transition to tougher standards, again it’s going to be tougher and tougher to earn an A rating.”

Schmidli explains with a simple analogy: if athletes are expected to qualify for a 1-mile race by running it at a 5:15 pace one year, far fewer students would qualify the following year of the standard was set at 5 minutes. That doesn’t mean that students are running less well. But it does mean that they’ll have to work harder to match the 5 minute qualifying mark. Eventually, the number of qualifiers returns to its previous level as students work harder to match it.

The same will happen with academic grades.

“Overall the numbers were pretty much where we had projected them to be,” Schmidli said.  “We actually anticipated this drop and it kind of came to fruition, and that drop was seen throughout the state, so there was nothing that really stood out that we did not anticipate.”

He added: “It’s tough for people to really make sense of it but that’s a trend we’re really going to continue to see with higher standards.”

The Florida Education Association, the teachers union, was critical of the grading system in a statement Friday. “The constantly changing measures the Florida DOE uses in grading schools renders them meaningless as a comparison of school progress,” FEA President Andy Ford said. “This system is flawed and does not reflect rising student achievement and the dedicated and caring efforts by our public school teachers and other school employees to provide our children with a high quality education.”

A few stats released by the state department and Flagler County schools:

  • 550 (21 percent) of the 2618 schools in 2013 benefited from the “safety net” provision which maximized the letter grade deduction.
  • In 2012, the number of A’s was 1242 (48 percent of schools)
  • In 2013, the number of A’s was 760 (29 percent of schools)
  • A drop from 48 percent to 29 percent of our schools classified as A’s
  • In 2012, there were 609 or 23 percent B schools.
  • In 2013, there 676 or 26 percent of schools were B’s
  • In 2012, there 494 C’s, which was 19 percent
  • In 2013, there were 721 C’ which was 28 percent of our schools
  • In 2012, there were 212 8 percent D
  • In 2013, there were 353 or 13 percent D schools
  • in 2012, there were 40 F schools (2 percent)
  • In 2013 there were 107 F schools (4 percent)
  • There was a total of 2597 schools in 2012, compared to 2618 in 2013
  • 852 Elementary Schools out of 1766 Elementary School (48.2 percent) earned an A in 2012, compared to 479 out of 1781 schools (26.9 percent) earning an A in 2013
  • 1005 out of 1754 Elementary Schools dropped a letter grade (57.3 percent)
  • 417 out of 848 elementary schools with letter grades in both 2012 and 2013 dropped a letter grade (49 percent of elementary schools lost their A status)

Flagler County School Grades, 2001-2016

School2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 20092010 2011201220132014201520162017
Bunnell ElementaryCCAAABBAABBAB (C)*ABCC
Belle Terre ElementaryAAAAAAAAAABB
Rymfire ElementaryBABCAAB (c)*ABBB
Phoenix AcademyCCClosed
Palm Harbor****FN.A.ABFD
Indian Trails MiddleAAAAAAAAAABB
Grades are based on standardized tests and other factors, including student improvement, end-of-year exams, AP and IB, dual enrollment, and graduation rates.
(*) In 2013, the state Board of Education agreed to pad grades in such a way as to prevent them from falling by more than one letter grade. More than 20 percent of schools benefited from the padding, including Rymfire and Bunnell elementaries in Flagler, whose grades would have been a C if the actual standards were applied.
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22 Responses for “Most Flagler Schools’ Grades Drop, Following State Trend, As Tougher Standards Kick In”

  1. Djacg says:

    Wadsworth stayed an A as well!

  2. Tom Brown says:

    The article states: “The falling grades don’t mean that students are falling behind, but that they are re-adjusting to harder standards, and are expected to eventually meet those higher standards.” OK, so what specifically are the carrots or sticks that will make the students work harder “eventually” ??

  3. brian says:

    these kids could care less about their grades, your going to pass them anyway, so they will become societies problem..all they want to do is drugs,crime and video games..parent/parents dont teach or discipline kids at home SO teachers have become babysitters and truant officers..maybe all these rented macbooks will help? NOT!!!!!!!!!!! wow are these kids a prize…

    • Magnolia says:

      I think the kids are doing just fine. It is the schools administration I give the failing grades to. No real discipline in school anymore, no respect taught. These kids are now receiving propaganda straight from Washington. The Teachers are about to become obsolete. Soon, we will not need to bother to build schools; this can be taught at home, on your computer.

      Soon you won’t need the computer. Implant a chip, let the child receive the instructions.

      What are we, a bunch of sheep? How come parents and taxpayers are not a regular feature at these school board meetings? Dancing with the Stars more important?

    • Realty Check says:

      @ Brian, well aren’t you a ray of sunshine for our future generation, we work really hard to keep our kids on the right path, and you lumping all kids together is just outlandish. We teach ours about manors and kindness first, and then we worked hard on education while still maintaining the first two most important characteristics.

      [Reality Check, at least three of your recent comments are not being approved because you’re being rude, condescending, snide, mean or spiteful to fellow-commenters. Before lecturing others about teaching kids about manners, you might want to give your own a reality check. Thanks.–FL]

  4. Lets keep it positive says:

    Brian, sounds to me you are a little bitter. Maybe if we as a community would stand up and support our schools (you included) volunteer instead of complain, you would see these teacher work hard and put our children first. I volunteered for two years when I was laid off and could not believe what these teachers and students need to do in such a short period of time. Quit complaining and show us how you became so wonderful!

  5. m&m says:

    What did you expect? You get what you elect.. Maybe the ibooks and ipads will help so they can ignore the teachers and play games on the new toys we the tax payers have given them.. I’ll bet the system will be artifiicialy make these grades get better..What a joke!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Mike says:

      @ M&M, did you know you can disable any features you do not want them to have access too; that’s right its called technology and get over the taxpayer thing. Your parents and grandparents had to pay for you just the same, except they said text books, we didn’t need text books, if your were to stupid to learn you just worked in the mine or on the farm. this is 2013 and this is what kids need to be ready for the real world, as far as our school board, you are correct they are a joke and need to be voted out for their mismanagement of funds.

      • Magnolia says:

        @Mike: “Get over the taxpayer thing?” What happens when we become Detroit and run out of other people’s money?

      • michelle says:

        Mike, I cannot disable the schools computer. Why? Because I am not an administrator. But the high school students’ computers will still have access to a whole bunch of stuff I don’t want my 9th grader having access to. Unfortunately, some teachers will not be monitoring what their students are on, most will. M&m has a right to be upset about tax payers money. It has nothing to do with being ‘too stupid to learn’.

  6. Tom says:

    It’s 2013 and why are we still using the FCRAP?? I still find it amazing that we will pass/fail a student based upon one stupid standardized test, Let the teachers do their jobs and teach. We have teachers teaching to the FCAT and strategies on how to be a good standardized test taker. The only thing the FCRAP determines is how well that student takes standardized test NOT how well he retains information or how much they have learned. I’ve seen straight A students due miserable in this garbage test not because they didn’t know the material but because the were anxious/nervous. No pressure for this test yea right! Only teachers salaries, school grades, and class placement are determined in the FCRAP. Why even take test during the year if thie one test is the only one that counts??

  7. Ayn Rand's Spleen says:

    I propose a new florida tag: “Education Ain’t Everything”

  8. Lisa says:

    As a parent of an elementary school child, I’m on the defense regarding the 2 previous comments. I, as well as my child’s friends parents, are very involved when it comes to our children, their grades, and teaching them from right and wrong so that they can become productive members of society. To say our kids don’t care is obnoxious. The fact is, technology is going to continue to evolve all around us.
    Although my child has not had a “paperless classroom” yet, all classrooms in the near future will be. Excuses of not doing homework because of forgotten books, papers, etc. should be eliminated if all is on one piece of electronic equipment. Talking with teachers who have had some experience with an IPad in the classroom have been positive for both student and teacher, including those students who have had difficulty in the past. Technology for learning is not the problem. It’s how people choose to prioritize its use.
    Go address the family thats out to dinner and all of them on their hand held electronic devices. Now that’s good quality time.

  9. Vincent says:

    We have before us the human brain which even neuro scientist will tell you they cannot fully explain, however, test now exist to determine performance? We are not robots so any one of us can have a bad day and do poorly on a test. Their exist a myriad of reasons why someone could do poorly on a test. The outcome should be that we have as a community educated someone that does not know all the answers but knows how to do reasearch, has learned how to learn, and has a great deal of emotional intelligence. These skills combined with a strong foundation in the fundamentals of various subject areas provide a platform from which students can take further steps in their educational journey. Education needs to be looked at as a lifelong journey rather than just the time teachers have with a student in a classroom. If we create a lifelong learner then that person will learn far more out of the classroom than in it. Planting those seeds in someone to make them into a lifelong learner should be the highest outcome a teacher or professor could achieve. Right now in our government we have some of the most highly educated people who represent us but their is total grid lock in Washington DC. Why? This is because to many lack empathy and emotional intelligence. How will the new testing standards help with that problem?

  10. Jordyn says:

    Congratulations to Indian Trails, Belle Terre, and Wadsworth. I hope this helps lay to rest any future conversations about closing the schools that have been the most consistent and highest performing.

  11. Ben Dover says:

    Yeah now lets give them all personal computers , so they can fall further behind, cannot believe anyone teaching children don t know that making them do math on paper , showing how they got their answers or reading a book and and having to hand write an essay teaches them better then handing them all the answers on a computer, its just pure laziness on the whole pArt of the education system , no one wants to put in the work anymore and do things right . Technology is destroying this country in so many ways, before kids had access to computers and violent video games their were never school shootings and kids could acually do simple math in their heads now if the cash register acts up , they are totally lost , its pathetic.

    • tampanative says:

      Ben Dover it does not take much research to find that school shootings occurred long before the introduction of violent video games and computers. Computers do not give the students all the answers but provide students with an invaluable resource for information and understanding. It allows them to learn in different ways. Maybe before you jump and say these tools are not useful you should go visit Belle Terre Elementary School and see how students in an iPad pilot program utilized them in the classroom. How much do you learn, read and write using your computer today? How many hand written letters do you still write, put in envelope and send to family and friends? Probably not many. Maybe Belle Terre’s A is partially a result of the iPads in the classroom.

  12. devrie says:

    I wonder how the students’ average grades compare to their scores on FCAT. Are there many students who are passing their in-class assignments and tests, but failing the FCAT?

  13. Mike says:

    This is nothing more than a generational gap issue, we will all argue until the cows come home, its opinions and you know what they say about those.

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