Putting Education Reform To The Test

Florida Schools Chief: No Break From School Grades During Switch To New Test

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart


Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said she doesn’t support a proposal from state school superintendents to overhaul the school grading system as Florida switches to new math and language arts standards — and statewide tests — next school year.

The Florida Association of District School Superintendents want state leaders to replace the A-through-F grades with a new system by 2017. The new reports would add other factors, such as attendance, discipline, parent involvement and more.

But Stewart told a State Board of Education meeting Tuesday she does not support going without grades, even temporarily, as Florida makes the switch to Common Core. Florida is one of 45 states to fully adopt Common Core. The new tests are expected to be harder and fewer students are expected to hit state target scores.

That concerns teachers, principals and others whose pay is determined, in part, by student performance on those exams. Some states are considering suspending teacher performance pay during the switch to Common Core.

“I don’t think that suspending school grading is the right thing to do for students,” she said.

Stewart said she is working on changes to the school grading system and will propose them at the board’s next meeting in February. Stewart told lawmakers earlier this month that the formula would focus on three factors: student proficiency on state tests; whether student scores are improving; and graduation rates. She expects to recommend a new statewide test in March.

She told the State Board of Education her goal was a system that “holds everyone accountable and does so in a very meaningful way.”

Stewart’s comments followed Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who outlined the state superintendent’s association plan. Carvalho said the proposal would make it clear which schools and districts were performing well and which were not.

“There is a way of creating a transitional accountability system,” he said, “that includes a direct, legible and easily-understood school report card for parents and business leaders without necessarily imposing a letter grade during the transitional period.”

Carvalho also urged the board to reconsider the state’s teacher evaluation rules and the reliance on a statistical formula which determines teacher performance, known as Value-Added Measure, or VAM.

“VAM is not understood by teachers,” he said. “And you and I know if it’s not understood, it is not trusted.”


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