Putting Education Reform To The Test

Bennett Will Suggest Grading System Changes This Week

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho led the charge for grading system changes Monday.


Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho led the charge for grading system changes Monday.

Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett said he will recommend changes to the state’s A through F school grading system by the end of the week.

Bennett met with school superintendents and researchers Monday to gather concerns and suggestions about the school grading system.

Superintendents said they were concerned state requirements had changed too quickly the past two years for students test scores to keep pace.

Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho pointed to Florida Comprehensive Writing Test results as an example. Miami-Dade students scores rose this year, he said, but schools will get less credit according to the school grading formula. That’s because the state raised the target score from a 3 to a 3.5.

That’s difficult to explain to parents and students, Carvalho said.

Carvalho wants no school to drop by more than a letter grade this year — something the State Board of Education approved last year after test scores dropped.

“At stake here is the credibility of the accountability system — we have a chance to fix it,” he said. “Number one: Put in place and continue the one letter grade drop provision.”

Carvalho and other superintendents suggested other changes:

Change how the grading system factors FCAT writing results — Student scores are rising, but not enough to meet the higher state target score. Carvalho would like scores averaged over two years.

Talk more to local officials — Superintendents complained that state education officials do not meet with local school leaders as often to talk about shortcomings with the grading system.

English language learners and special education — The scores of students learning English are included in school grades after one year in district classes. Likewise, students in special education centers are also included. Superintendents, particularly Carvalho, said those expectations are unreasonable. Changing that might require challenging federal rules tied to Florida’s waiver from No Child Left Behind rules.

Hillsborough Superintendent MaryEllen Elia and Carvalho both said their district data specialists have found what seems to be an unexplained glitch in the formula. Test scores are not matching projected grades, Elia said.

The superintendents also noted that schools are now emphasizing the transition to new common standards adopted by Florida and 44 other states. However, school grades and teacher evaluations are still tied to FCAT test which will soon be replaced.

Long-term, they said, the grading formula must change to emphasize the standards, known as Common Core, and the affiliated tests.

Bennett was sensitive to the perception that he and superintendents were changing the grading system to hide low-performing schools.

“What I heard last year when I read about the decisions that were made was that, in retrospect, Florida changed their standards to keep so many of their schools from being ‘F’s,” Bennett said. “Nobody’s going to be able to say that this year because that hasn’t been part of the discussion.”

Bennett said he will recommend changes in the next 48 to 72 hours and that the State Board of Education could vote on them in mid-July.


  • Lorri Swafford

    As an educator with 22 years of experience, I would challenge the group that makes the never ending changes to work one on one with a school group (NOT their own) to see how these changes impact what actually happens in a district.

  • Karen Cobb

    All teachers desire to comply with the new rules in assessment for their students and themselves, but there is a lack of communicating and a sense of urgency from decision makers. I liken it to having to cram for a surprise exam course that you only found out about 2 days earlier. The professor says don’t worry, I’ve prepared you, but your course is on marine biology and you are being tested on whale anatomy. How well can you actually do given such limited time knowing what you will be tested on? No sense of urgency in communicating, so the crisis continues.

  • Carlos Gonzalez

    I will agree, the system is broken and needs to be fixed. There are simply too many moving parts, including changes in curricula, teacher evaluations, standardized testing and several other concerns. Moreover, I am fed up with see the blowhard from Miami, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, always having his face and name in the papers, on tv and anywhere else he can to promote his political career.
    He is the slimey and shady Superintendent that was allegedly involved in a romantic relationship with a news reporter. This guy has an ego bigger than the entire state of Florida and cares only about himself! There are some 60 plus other Superintendets throughout the state, many of whom don’t share the same self centered political aspirations of this man, that could provide helpful insight into fixing Florida’s education problems.
    Go away Alberto…and stay in Miami.

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »