2016 school grades reveal progress, hope for more accurate future measurement

7/8/2016

School grades for 2016 have been released and this means a new batch of information and interpretation coming from multiple sources. There are a lot of caveats you need to be aware of, including how we should not compare this year’s grades to last year’s, and how the calculation of school grades has changed so drastically over previous years. Please take a minute to read these posts, because it’s vitally important that we all understand what this data can and cannot tell us.

Rather than address changes in year-to-year grades, we will focus on what the 2016 school grade results mean for Duval in both the larger context of our state, as well as within the district. All data is sourced from the FDOE school grades website.

This year Duval County received a “B” school grade. Florida’s other “Big 7” school districts (districts with 100,000 or more students enrolled), Broward, Dade, Hillsborough, Orange, Palm Beach, Pinellas, and Polk, also received B’s with the exception of Polk County which received a C. Duval’s number of total points earned, 604, was higher than the state average for all districts, 590, and close to the average of the other “Big 7” districts, 607. For districts, total number of points earned determines the grade the district receives. This is calculated using all of the scores in each category of “Learning Gains” or “Achievement” for each student in the district and is not broken up by school. In 2016, Duval students’ performance was better than the state average and about equal to that of the other “Big 7” school districts.

Comparing the 2016 distribution of grades in Duval County to the state overall, and to the other “Big 7” districts (see the table below), shows that while Duval has improved its performance compared to the state when each student is accounted for individually, it still has lower percentages of A, B, and C schools than the state on a school-by-school basis. Also, although Duval is nearly equal to the “Big 7” in terms of individual students, it has lower percentages of A, B, and C schools on a school-by-school basis. This may be due to the fact that Duval has a high number of smaller, older schools that are low-performing. This means that the proportion of lower-performing students in Duval (because many low-performing schools have smaller populations) to lower-performing schools (because a small school and a large school each count as one school) may be different than in other counties with more recent population growths, where many schools were built more recently (and with a larger capacity).

2016 School Grade Distributions

 

“A” Schools

“B” Schools

“C” Schools

“D” Schools

“F” Schools

“I” Schools

Duval County: Number

30

34

59

37

7

13

Duval County: Percent

16.7%

18.9%

32.8%

20.6%

3.9%

7.2%

State-wide: Count

741

749

1248

372

104

114

State-wide: Percent

22.3%

22.5%

37.5%

11.2%

3.1%

3.4%

Other “Big 7”: Count

57

48

88

28

8

6

Other “Big 7”: Percent

23.2%

19.5%

38.4%

12.3%

3.5%

3.1%

 This year in Duval County, 35 percent of schools earned A’s and B’s, 68 percent earned A’s, B’s, and C’s, and 24% earned D’s and F’s. Importantly, the distribution of grades here and across the state appears to be more normalized (where more schools have middle scores of B, C, or D) in 2016 than in years past (see figure below). This is likely due to new cut scores, more difficult standards, new calculation requirements, and the re-introduction of “Learning Gains” for 2016. Compared to the past 3 years, schools this year received fewer F’s as well as fewer A’s, with more B’s, C’s, and D’s instead. Since the majority of schools received B’s, C’s, and D’s, Duval schools grades received this year are more evenly spread out.

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This same trend (see figure below), with fewer A and F grades and more B, C, and D grades, is also apparent in the distribution of school grades across the state of Florida.

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This is especially encouraging, as we have long advocated for the use of a model that fits toward a more normalized distribution for the number of schools and grades. This year’s results closely mirror the model we proposed in 2014 (see figure below) as part of an in-depth analysis of the school grade system. We hope this new model will continue to serve as a more fair and accurate representation of school grades.

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Among individual DCPS schools, several stand out. The percentage of points earned out of points available is the measurement used to determine grades for individual schools. These are the schools here in Duval with the highest percentages of total points possible for 2016:

School Name

Percent of Total Possible Points

School Grade

JACKSONVILLE BEACH ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

91

A

JULIA LANDON COLLEGE PREPARATORY & LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT SCHOOL

80

A

STANTON COLLEGE PREPARATORY

80

A

SAN PABLO ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

77

A

JAMES WELDON JOHNSON COLLEGE PREPARATORY MIDDLE SCHOOL

77

A

 

These are the schools with the lowest percentages of total points possible for 2016:

School Name

Percent of Total Possible Points

School Grade

JAMES WELDON JOHNSON ACADEMIC AND CAREER TRAINING CENTER

21

F

JOHN LOVE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

21

F

GRASP ACADEMY

29

F

SOMERSET ACADEMY-ELEMENTARY, EAGLE CAMPUS

29

F

SOMERSET EAGLE HIGH SCHOOL

29

F

 

It is worth noting that of the traditional public schools that received an “F,” the JWJ-ACT Center is an alternative school and GRASP Academy is a school designed for students with learning disabilities. The other two, John Love and S.P. Livingston, are set to be converted to PK-2 learning centers next year, a change that school district leaders believe is a better model to ensure quality early learning for students in low-income communities.

In its press release, the district also celebrated the achievement of The Leadership Academies at Eugene Butler Middle, which has undergone significant transformation over the last two years, becoming a C school for the first time since 2010, and Dinsmore Elementary, a DTO school, becoming an A school for the first time in more than a decade.

It is important to avoid comparing school grades from past years to 2016. However, there is still a lot we can learn from this year’s grades, and even more to come next year when school grades will be directly comparable to each other yet again. Additionally, as grades seem to shift to a more realistic and accurate distribution, we are cautiously optimistic that this new period of school grades will yield better and more honest assessments of students, schools, and districts than before.

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