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Legislature Approves Bill on School Grades

Florida's A-F grading system has experienced many changes over the last 15 years and will undergo even more now that the Florida legislature approved Senate Bill 1642 on Wednesday. The bill, intended to simplify the school grading formula, will impact school grades released after the 2014-2015 school year and into the future.

Some of the major changes which will go into effect after this school year's grades are released are the: 

  • Reporting A-F grades based on percentages of total points rather than point total
  • Elimination of extraneous bonuses and penalties in grading formulas
  • Resetting of the grading scale to require a rigorous standard be met and avoid compression in the current scale
  • Changing of the grading formula, especially at the high school level, eliminating several of the current components, such as college readiness in reading and math, participation in accelerated coursework, and graduation rate of at-risk students.
  • Scheduling of a periodic review of the grading scale and components, along with the State Board of Education having to publically announce any adjustments that are made

Updates from Previous Blog Posts:

Although little has changed since the Commissioner proposed the new school grades formula in January, there are a few updates worthy of mentioning that were included in the final, approved version of the bill. The updates include:

  • The addition of the percentage of eligible middle grades (6-8) students passing high school level end-of-course assessments or attaining national industry certifications as part of the middle school grading formula.
  • The adjustment that the performance of English Language Learners' will only count toward a school's grade if they have been enrolled in a school in the United States for more than 2 years.  
  • And, since it was mentioned heavily in the previous blog post, it is important to note that the automatic adjustments to the school grading thresholds that were proposed did not make it into the final version of the bill.

Need for More Information:

As the new school grading formula is being implemented, schools will be held harmless in terms of accountability sanctions and penalties during the transition year. School grades will still be reported, but will be considered as a baseline. These baseline grades will be released after the same year that the state will also be implementing a new statewide, standardized assessment. With that said, there are a few concerns and aspects of the school grading system that still have to be determined. These include:

Concerns:

  • Limited transition time to calculate and communicate baseline grades in new system
  • Linking back to previous year's student performance on statewide assessments for purposes of 3rd retention, high school graduation, and calculating growth in next year's school grades.
  • The possibility of using lagged data for portions of the high school grading formula beginning next year.

The Florida Department of Education still needs to determine:

  • The cut scores for the A-F grading thresholds
  • The length of time between when periodic reviews and changes made to the school grading system
  • The way in which growth will be calculated, especially during the transition between the FCAT 2.0 and assessment to be designed by AIR. 

As was mentioned, it is important to remember that the school grades to be released in the upcoming months for the 2013-2014 school year will be based on the current formula in place.

The changes outlined above will take effect for grades released after the 2014-2015 school year. However before that can happen there are still many questions that will need to be answered.

For more in-depth updates from this year's legislative session and developments on the new school grading system and assessment coming this next school year, continue to check back on the Jacksonville Public Education Fund's blog to learn more.

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Kelly Turner