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Florida's Grading Formula May Get More Tweaks

July 11, 2013 - 6:00pm

After sending a task force to take a deeper look at Florida's grading formula, Commissioner Tony Bennett has recommended last-minute changes to the formula to calculate school grades, which are slated to be released sometime this month. Superintendents from Hillsborough and Miami-Dade counties had urged the Board of Education to reassess the grading formula in June after expressing concerns that many of the schools' grades in their districts would plummet with higher standards.

"Between now and the 2014-2015 school year, the biggest issue confronting ourschools is the successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). I believe everyaction we take in the intervening period of time before the roll-out of new assessments aligned to CCSSmust be done with this issue in mind," saidBennett in amemo. "This is especially true with regard to our state's accountabilityframework, a model that has rightfully earned both accolades and admiration from across the nation."

Bennett made two recommendations in response to the concerns voiced at the Board of Education's meeting in June, keeping Common Core in mind. Bennett proposed continuing the safety net provision, which stops schools from dropping more than one letter grade in a given year. While he said he understood the superintendents' concerns of an array of changes to performance expectations, grade calculations and other variables within the calculation on a short timeline, Bennett reminded the State Board of Education that these standards would likely be in play in 2015-2016 with a newly revamped accountability model and higher expectations under CCSS.

"Complexity does not provide a rationale for a safety net as themultifaceted nature of schooling will necessarily require the consideration of multiple variables in assigning letter grades," said Bennett in the letter. "I believe the transition to CCSS will be an opportunity to providegreater transparency in our state accountability system."

Commissioner Bennett also advocated ending the practice of sending the scores of students attending ESE center schools back to their home schools. The Board of Education will be working closely with school districts to apply this provision retroactively for the 2012-2013 school year.

Bennett made it clear that these recommendations were not necessarily to soften the blow of Florida's higher standards or to reduce the number of failing schools across the state, but to ensure that Florida can position itself for a smoother transition to the CCSS, which is set to be fully implemented in all schools by the 2014-2015 school year.Thousands of teachers from across the state are currently attending Common Core Summer Institutes to ensure they are fully prepared for when Common Core hits the classrooms in 2014.

Common Core State Standards has been filled with controversy, with many parents and members of the public speaking out against the program. Some parents have complained about it, saying it was adopted "in the dead of night" without any real input from the public.

If the State Board of Education chooses to endorse Bennett's recommendations, it would be the second year in a row that the school grading formula has undergone last-minute changes.In a controversial move, the board last year approved changes to the states grading formula, which included raising the target score on the states reading exam. Writing-cut scores were also lowered after officials found many students failing the exam.

The State Board of Education is scheduled to meet 10 a.m. Tuesday via conference call. The next scheduled meeting is set for September.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at

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