The Washington Post

Florida gives hundreds of schools wrong grade

The state of Florida, famous for leading the reform movement that uses student standardized test scores to “grade” individual public schools, miscalculated the grades for hundreds of schools and is now changing them.

Teachers helped students at Miami Central Senior High School in Miami prepare for the 2009 FCAT. (Carl Juste/AP )

Florida doles out grades to schools based on the results of the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test. The Board of Education says in this release that it messed up the grades in 40 of the 67 schools, affecting 213 of the initially graded 2,586 schools. That’s eight percent. As it turns out, all of the preliminary scores were lower than they are now said to be.

The department says that:

116 school grades changed from a B to an A

55 school grades changed from a C to a B

35 school grades changed from a D to a C

7 school grades changed from an F to a D

The initial grades — schools are given A, B, C, D or F — were calculated by the department and then, the release says, validated by Florida State University, which, of course, could validate only with the information that it received from the department. Not FSU’s fault.

How did this happen? The Miami Herald explained:

Education officials said the error came from the way they weighted students’ learning gains. The state passed a rule last year saying that students who scored at levels 1 and 2 on last year’s FCAT and got a third more points than was needed to be considered to have made learning gains on the FCAT this year, would receive a weighted learning gains score. But the state failed to include students who were at levels 1 or 2 last year, but scored at higher levels this year when calculating the weighted points.

I’m still trying to figure that out.

This is just the latest debacle with the FCAT. Just a few months ago, panicked state officials lowered the passing score on a new FCAT after only 27 percent of fourth-graders got proficient scores — down from 81 percent a year earlier — and students in other grades did poorly, too.

By now state officials must know the FCAT is unreliable. Shame on them for continuing to grade schools, students and now teachers by an unacceptable measure. And other states looking to Florida as a model should take an honest look at what is really happening with Jeb Bush’s “Florida Model.”

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Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.


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