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State board discusses school grading

New academic standards - now called the Florida Standards - and revisions to the school grading system were among key topics at today's State Board of Education meeting.

At the beginning of the meeting, Miami-Dade Superintendent, Alberto Carvalho presented, on behalf of Florida superintendents, the concerns that the superintendents wanted the board to consider around the issue standards, assessment, school grades and teacher evaluation. Among his points and recommendations to the board were:

Standards:

  • Robust professional development should be provided for teachers to be retooled with the skills needed to teach using the new standards
  • Adequate instructional materials and extended time are necessary to ensure proper implementation of the new standards

Assessment:

  • Florida's assessment must be comparable across districts, states, and international lines
  • The assessment needs to undergo rigorous review to ensure it is appropriately measuring the new standards
  • Field testing of the new assessment is suggested
  • With an emphasis on computer-based testing, there needs to be a technology plan is in place to provide each student access to a device and to ensure the appropriate bandwidth and networking needs are met

School Grades:

  • Need to create a transitional accountability system, where a direct, easily understandable school report card is available for parents and business leaders without imposing a letter grade on the schools
  • The components of accountability system should be broadened to include factors such as mobility and student attendance
  • School grades should include measures of both proficiency and growth

Teacher Evaluation:

  • The evaluation system must focus on teachers who do not have a statewide assessment to drive their performance scores and ensure there is appropriate criteria used for the individual teacher's evaluation and pay, rather than applying the school's results on the statewide assessment for to the teacher's evaluation
  • Instructional practice and district-determined goals should be included along with student test score growth into the teacher evaluation and performance pay formula.

Following Carvalho's suggestions, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart presented her report and discussed the progress of the state's selection of a new assessment, in addition to updating the board on the proposed changes to the Florida Standards. Stewart said the Department of Education was on schedule to have an assessment chosen in March.

On the topic of the proposed changes to the state standards, Stewart reviewed the clarifications, additions, and deletions to the standards, similar to her presentation to the Senate Education Committee earlier this month.  The State Board of Education will vote on the 99 proposed changes at their February meeting. Details of the changes to the state standards are available on the Jacksonville Public Education Fund blog - click here for the link.

The commissioner is now calling them "Florida Standards" instead of "Common Core State Standards," saying that term is appropriate because state standards do not only encompass the subject areas of English Language Arts and Mathematics, but include those previously adopted for other subject areas as well. Common Core State Standards only address English Language Arts and Mathematics.

Stewart also told the Board that she does not support suspending school grading during the transition period to the new standards and assessment, saying she does "not feel it is the right thing to do for the students." This comment followed Carvalho's recommendations, which asked the board to consider a transitional accountability system, which would not impose a letter grade amidst the changes of the new standards and assessment. The changes to the school grading system will be presented at the February board meeting.

To read about the Jacksonville Public Education Fund's suggestions for the school grading system, read our latest policy brief, Understanding and Updating School Grades for Florida's Future.

At the meeting, the State Board of Education also welcomed two new board members, Rebecca Fishman Lipsey (started January 1) and Andy Tuck (starting February 1).

-- Kelly Turner