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High school grades: What about the formula?

Since yesterday's news that high school grades improved quite a bit, many have asked whether changes in the formula the state of Florida uses to determine school grades caused the rise.
In 2010, the formula used to determine high school grades changed quite a bit - incorporating factors such as graduation rate and accelerated course (such as Advanced Placement) participation and performance. But in 2011, it did not change very much.
 
Data & Policy Director Jason Rose explains:

The formula is in fact pretty close to the same as it was last year (FCAT components = 50%, non-FCAT components = 50%), with the only changes being that within the non-FCAT components section Accelerated Coursework Participation is weighted less heavily than last year and Accelerated Coursework Performance is weighted more heavily.  Years prior to last year are much different, before the introduction of all the non-FCAT components.

Below is a quick reference to the total possible point values for the non-FCAT components of HS grades for 2010 and 2011, and how those sections have changed.

 

Component

2010 Total Possible Points

2011 Total Possible Points

Change

Graduation Rate

200

200

-

Graduation Rate (At-risk)

100

100

-

Accelerated Course (Participation)

200

175

-25

Accelerated Course (Performance)

100

125

+25

Postsecondary Readiness (Reading)

100

100

-

Postsecondary Readiness (Math)

100

100

-


 
From what we've looked at in the Duval County grades, the schools that jumped up one or more letter grades tended to be getting their big point gains through improvements in Accelerated Coursework (Participation & Performance) and Postsecondary Readiness (Reading). All of the non-FCAT component sections above are assigned points based on actual 2011 achievement levels plus bonus points (or deductions) for gains from last year - so significant 1-year gains in Graduation Rate or Accelerated Coursework levels can significantly lift an overall score since those totals are weighted by 2.0, 1.75, and 1.25 respectively.
 
For any schools in the B, C, or D range - a bump of a hundred points or so from these areas can easily jump them up a grade with the FCAT or other areas staying the same.  The diagram below shows total points needed out of 1600 for each school grade, as you can see the ranges that define a B, C, or D school are very small and do not take a huge change in total points to move between.
High school grades: What about the formula?
A number of Duval County schools that jumped did also make significant FCAT gains. Overall, that led to quite a bit of improvement in the grades of many high schools in Jacksonville. You can see the full breakdown in a previous blog post.
 
-- Deirdre Conner