State Gives Wrong Grades to Five Manatee County Schools
Florida school leaders are criticizing state officials for incorrect calculations for school grades affecting 213 schools.
Five Manatee County schools are among 213 schools across Florida that the Department of Education gave wrong school grade, based on FCAT scores and other factors that were incorrectly calculated.
Palma Sola Elementary, Freedom Elementary and Rowlett Magnet Elementary all originally received B grades but those were quietly changed to As on Friday. Two other schools — Moody Elementary and Manatee School of Arts/Sciences — were given D grades but those were revised to Cs. Those changes were made along with other schools across the state on Friday.
The letter grades are part of a complex formula that heavily weighs on FCAT scores and the letter grade determines the amount of funding a school receives.
While the ultimate impact is a positive one for the five district schoos, some school officials on the Gulf Coast are considering it an embarrassment for the state. Neighboring Sarasota was fortunate only having one school affected while some counties such as our neighbor to the north, Pinellas, had 18 school involved and Dade County had 30 schools with incorrect scores.
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These changes were identified during the review process that occurs between the time initial school grades are released and final school grades are published after an appeals process has been completed, according to the Department of Education, but no reason for the error was given.
The Manatee and Sarasota County School Boards joined other school boards across the state signing a Florida School Boards Association resolution for the state to overhaul the accountability system for what they're calling the standardized tests as "high stakes testing structure."
"I personally believe that the FCAT testing must be revamped," Sarasota County School Board Chairwoman Caroline Zucker told Patch.
Here's what the state School Boards Association wants:
• Contract with a qualified, independent entity to conduct a thorough and fully transparent independent review and evaluation of Florida’s accountability system, including the assessment instruments, contracts with service providers, state and local costs, the return on investment, and the overall quality, reliability, and validity of the system;
• Revise the accountability system to include data from multiple forms of assessment and limited standardized testing to more accurately reflect student learning gains and identify learning weaknesses;
• Eliminate the practice of using student performance on standardized tests as the primary basis for evaluating teacher, administrator, school, and district performance;
• Phase in any revisions to the accountability system in order to ensure adequate time for students, teachers, parents, and administrators to fully understand and adapt to the revisions, and ensure that students, teachers, schools, and districts are held harmless during the phase-in period; and
• Ensure that Florida’s accountability system is fully funded by the state and that school districts are held harmless from incurring any expenses related to the development of assessment instruments and the administration of assessment tests, including the expenses related to training, test security, and the hardware, software, and infrastructure necessary to administer assessment tests.
In Hillsborough County, School Board members are blunt about the state's handling of the botched scores after 17 schools were affected in the mix-up, TBO.com reports:
That annoyed Hillsborough school board member Jack Lamb, an outspoken critic of the FCAT, who was disturbed about the way the news was disclosed.
"It leaves a lot to be desired," he said.
Candy Olson, chairwoman of the Hillsborough County School Board, expressed distrust of the results and how they are assessed.
"This is only what they've admitted to," she said. "Because they're so secretive, we don't know how accurate they are."
Critics are also upset that Commissioner of Education Gerard Robinson opted to only call the 40 affected Superintendents instead of holding a routine conference call for the media.
"School grades are important to students, parents, teachers, principals, administrators and the community," stated Commissioner of Education Gerard Robinson in a news release. "And, while I am pleased that the continuous review process has resulted in better grades, we will continue to look for ways to improve the grade calculation process."
The department said there may be other changes to grades up until the release of the final school grades during the first week in September.
The state attempted to look at catching the errors in a positive light.
"The fact that eight percent of school grades will increase not only affirms the hard work of Florida's students, teachers and district leadership, it demonstrates the value of the continuous review process," Robinson said. "The strength of our accountability system depends on the partnership between school districts and the department, and these revisions are a direct result of that process."