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New Proposal Cuts Down on School Grading Formula Complication

February 11, 2014 - 6:00pm

Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart wants to simplify what has been criticized as a too-complicated Florida school-grading formula.

Created in 1999, the grading formula was once lauded as a good way for parents to gauge how their childs school was performing. But a series of changes to the formula eventually altered that.

Four years ago the department added several categories in the school grading formula, such as graduation rates and SAT scores, as components of the school grading system.

In 2012, the State Board of Education established a safety net, which would protect individual schools from dropping more than a letter grade in a year. The safety net was extended last summer after superintendents voiced concerns that the grading formula was too tough and would result in statewide school grades plummeting.

Earlier this week, Stewart unveiled a new proposal to cut down on certain parts of the formula, virtually demystifying it.

[The formula] needs to be simpler so that everyone's confidence is back in the school grading system," Stewart told a group of superintendents last week.

Among the changes: cutting out SAT scores and certain graduation rates from the complex formula used to evaluate high schools and requiring schools letter grades to drop if less than 25 percent of a schools students are reading at grade level.

Under Stewarts proposal, Floridas schools will be graded on four factors: achievement, learning gains, graduation, and college credit or industry certifications.

The achievement factor takes into account the percentage of students who meet targets on standardized tests while the learning gains factor rates of schools based on how their students performing below grade level improve academically.

Graduation rates would also help schools earn points toward their grade.

School grades have become increasingly important for Floridas schools over the years -- higher performing schools generally tend to get extra funding while schools that fail face the possibility of getting shut down completely.

Floridas schools will be seeing some changes next year with Common Cores implementation as well as a new standardized test to measure academic achievement.

Under Stewarts proposal, however, low-performing schools wouldnt be penalized until 2016, and there would still be a significant emphasis on the lowest-performing 25 percent of students.

The State Board of Education will consider the commissioners proposal at its Feb. 18 meeting in Orlando.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen atAllison@sunshinestatenews.comor follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.

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