Florida approves ‘safety net’ for school grades

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Board members voted 4 to 3 during an emergency conference call to bring back a letter grade “safety net” established last year that kept school grades from plummeting due, at least in part, to a slew of rigorous changes to Florida’s grading formula. More than 30 changes have been made in the last two years to the state’s prominent school grading system, established in 1999 under then-Gov. Jeb Bush and hailed as a national model.

In bringing back the safety net, which was recommended by a task force and by Education Commissioner Tony Bennett, board members were conflicted about their own system. Chairman Gary Chartrand, who voted for the emergency rule change, questioned the validity of the grading scale.

“Are we really revealing the truth if we don’t really have a statistically valid model?” asked Chartrand. “I don’t think we do.”

Dissenting board members, however, questioned the honesty behind assigning a school one grade when they earned another, something Bennett struggled with. Grades are calculated using scores from standardized tests and year-to-year learning gains. High school grades include other factors, too, like graduation rates.

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