The State Board of Education has asked that a panel of school superintendents and other education officials to review the state’s school grading system and potentially recommend changes.
Superintendents from Hillsborough and Miami-Dade schools said that they are concerned changes to the school grading system will mean a dramatic drop in school grades.
The board approved changes to the system last year — such as including the test scores of students at special education centers and raising the target score on the state reading test. Additional changes are set to take effect this year.
The school grading system tries to combine many measures of school performance, such as test results or the percentage of students taking advanced courses, into an easy-to-understand letter grade. The grades can determine which schools receive additional help to improve results, or influence property values.
The grading system has also drawn criticism for being punitive and putting too much emphasis on test results.
Hillsborough County schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia said at the state board’s Tampa meeting today that a district analysis shows test scores are rising, but according to the state formula, the district saw “unexplained and large drops in learning gains.”
“We have other assessments that show kids making gains,” Elia said. “When we’re seeing it and this test isn’t showing it. We’ve got a problem.”
Miami-Dade schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he was concerned the district and school grades would drop despite beating state averages on student test score improvement. Carvalho said it’s difficult to convince parents their students are learning more while school grades are declining.
Carvalho asked the board to make the grade system more forgiving. Last year, the board only allowed school grade to drop by one letter while phasing in changes to the grading system.
“There ought to be a safety net in times of change,” he said.
Board chairman Gary Chartrand agreed, asking Education Commissioner Tony Bennett to seek recommendations from a panel of superintendents and report back soon.
“It’s late, but it’s not too late,” Chartrand said of changing the system before school and district grades are released, possibly in July.