Putting Education Reform To The Test

Florida Schools Chief Says New Grade Proposals Under Review

Florida Department of Education

Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson

Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson says the state may not include schools that specialize in students with disabilities in the new school grading formula now under discussion.

“One simulation, for example,” Robinson said in a statement released Thursday afternoon, “includes grading all schools that serve students with disabilities; however, we are reviewing alternative options for schools that serve only these students.”

Robinson said the agency was considering the feedback they’ve received so far. Some parents and education officials have questioned the new grading system, which school officials believe will lead to many more failing Florida schools.

A Florida Department of Education simulation showed 231 additional schools would be considered failing.

Robinson said the state has long-planned to raise its school standards, and said it was unacceptable that a school could earn an ‘A’ if three out of four students were not reading at grade level. The state’s recent waiver from No Child Left Behind requirements also requires changes to the state accountability system.

The state Board of Education is meeting Tuesday to discuss the changes.

Robinson’s full statement is below:

“Florida has worked very hard for more than a decade to implement and support ground-breaking education reform and I am extremely proud of our successes. As we move toward a new age of education for Florida’s children, it is important to recognize our triumphs and build upon our hopes for the future of public education.

“The proposed changes to our school grading system are not only necessary to continue on the path of intelligent reform, but they will help ensure that Florida is prepared to compete on a global level. Under our current school grading system, it is possible for a school to receive an ‘A’ grade when three out of four students cannot meet Florida’s grade-level standards for reading. This is unacceptable.

“We need an education system for Florida that is exceptional, not merely acceptable. It is my goal to ensure that every student has the opportunity to be counted and to experience world-class public education. These proposed changes are the result of important discussion and contributions made by all stakeholder groups including superintendents, educators, and experts across the state. And this is not a week-old discussion. The Florida Department of Education has been discussing school grade changes with stakeholders since May 2011.

“There has been a great deal of conversation about the proposed changes and I believe strongly that talking about the future of education in our state is healthy. In this instance, I think it is important to understand that much of the discussion is based on estimates, not concrete projections. We have created many school grade simulations using various scenarios to illustrate the potential impact of proposed changes. One simulation, for example, includes grading all schools that serve students with disabilities; however, we are reviewing alternative options for schools that serve only these students.

“I want to assure the citizens of Florida that I will consider all of the viable options as I review the valuable feedback received regarding the proposed state board rule changes to our school grading system. This feedback will be part of our healthy conversation as the State Board considers these proposals at their meeting on February 28, in Tallahassee.”


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