The Flagler County school district had a few results to celebrate as the Department of Education on Friday released FCAT writing scores for 4th, 8th and 10th graders and reading and math scores for third graders.
The $220 million contract with American Institutes for Research, which has been providing tests for just seven years, will be cheaper than it would have been to go forward with a test developed by a multi-state consortium that Gov. Rick Scott ordered Stewart to back away from last year, according to the Department of Education.
On February 26, almost 1,000 juniors–double the usual number–will take the SAT at Matanzas and FPC, but School Board member Colleen Conklin worried that the resulting drop in average results may send the wrong message to families and businesses looking to relocate to Flagler County.
The hearings were part of Gov. Rick Scott’s plan for dealing with the politically volatile issue. Scott has already begun distancing the state from a consortium developing tests for Common Core, and has suggested the hearing could come up with ways to amend the academic benchmarks.
By withdrawing from just the testing partnership, Scott’s decision Monday was more of a political balancing act than either a radical departure from Florida’s Common Core policy adopted in 2010 or a repudiation of the tougher standards that have been rolling out in schools through FCAT 2.0 for the past three years, in preparation for Common Core.
Pam Stewart’s appointment came amid jockeying over the future of education in Florida and rumors that Gov. Rick Scott will soon issue an executive order on schools, possibly dealing with whether the state will go along with a common-core related multi-state test aimed at measuring new, national standards for learning.
Critics of the state’s education policies are seizing on serial resignations in the education commissioner’s seat, arguing that the problem is less the person on the job than the state’s accountability system. Tony Bennett was a strong supporter of that system, adding a twist of irony to his resignation in the wake of reports that he tweaked the Indiana school report card formulas to help a school founded by a political contributor.
Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett and his then-Indiana employees “frantically overhauled” Indiana’s school-grading system last year (just as Florida’s was last year and this year) when it looked like one of his political contributors’ schools might get a “C,” the Associated Press reported.
In Flagler County, not a single school saw its grade improve and five fell back a grade, though two maintained their A rating: Indian Trails Middle School and Belle Terre Elementary. Grades would have been worse had the state Board of Education not agreed to artificially prop them up, limiting grade drops to a maximum of one letter grade.
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.