Putting Education Reform To The Test

When Is An A Not An A?

AJC1 / Flickr

91 Florida high schools scored well enough to earn an A, but were docked a letter grade because of the fine print.

Manatee County schools’ response to Wednesday’s school grade announcement caught our eye this afternoon.

“Five of seven Manatee District High Schools scored enough points to qualify for an A grade from the state,” a press release read.

What the carefully worded release did not say is that five of seven Manatee high school actually earned an A — and it’s worth asking why.

The Florida Department of Education includes a lot of factors when calculating school grades: Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores; high-level college prep courses such as Advanced Placement; graduation rates and performance on SAT or other college entrance exams.

But the grades also specifically target the performance of the bottom 25 percent of students. If schools don’t improve the graduation rate or FCAT scores of the bottom 25 percent of students, they could be docked a letter grade.

This is what happened to three Manatee high schools, Braden River, Lakewood Ranch and Southeast. The schools scored enough points to earn an A on other measures but

All three schools failed to graduate 75 percent of students the state considers at-risk of dropping out, and none of the three schools improved on their at-risk graduation rate from the previous year.

So all three schools saw what might otherwise have been a ‘A’ drop to a ‘B.’

The Manatee schools were not alone — 91 schools would have earned an A but for the requirements for the lowest-performing students, according to the Florida Department of Education.

The news was still good for Southeast — the school raised its grade to a B from a D.


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