As this year's legislative session kicks off in Tallahassee, it has become clear that school grades will be a big issue confronting our elected leaders. That's why the Jacksonville Public Education Fund is offering a webinar to help education advocates understand and take action on the issue of school grades. We're offering two sessions on Monday, March 10, one from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. and another from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (click the links to register for a time). The webinar will give an overview of the current status of school assessments and accountability, as well as highlights from our latest policy brief and a chance to get your questions answered.In the meantime, here's an update on the latest news out of Tallahassee.
According to a report in the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday, a Florida Department of Education procurement team unanimously recommended that the non-profit American Institutes for Research (AIR) develop the state's new assessments to replace FCAT 2.0 beginning in spring 2015. While this decision is not final, the bid from AIR beat out competing bids from Pearson, ACT, CTB-McGraw-Hill, and McCann Associates to earn the panel's recommendation. Commissioner Pam Stewart will have the final decision on the state's new assessment contractor, and is expected to announce her recommendation at the March 18th State Board of Education meeting.
Some strengths of the AIR assessment that were shared by the committee were that it will not require a stand-alone field test and that it could be given at a later time in the school year compared to the current FCAT 2.0 assessment. AIR is also leading the development of new assessments for the Smarter Balanced consortium, a coalition of 23 states agreeing to administer the same English/Language Arts and Mathematics assessments at tested grade levels. It is not clear yet whether a partnership with AIR would be to use the Smarter Balanced assessments or to create a new assessment just for Florida.
At the February 18th meeting, the State Board of Education voted unanimously to accept the proposed revisions to Florida's state standards (click here for more details on the revisions). All of the revisions, including the addition of 52 calculus standards and the supplemental standards addressing cursive writing, were accepted after over 80 public comments were heard on the topic of state standards.
At the same State Board meeting in February, the Commissioner presented her suggestions for changes to the Florida school accountability system. The main focus of the proposed changes to the school grading system is to promote a simpler grading formula. Commissioner Stewart emphasized that this is a "good time to take a look at what we plan to do and how best to grade schools" as the state is moving to a new assessment based on new standards.
Although the changes were not voted on at the meeting, the Commissioner presented the recommendations to provide an opportunity to begin an open discussion and dialogue on the topic of school accountability.
Significant details of the proposal include:
- A shift from grading scales to using a school's percentage of total possible points earned to calculate the A-F grade
- Elimination of many of the provisions, which were used to raise or lower a school's grade, such as bonus points and additional weighting given to certain components, said to over-complicate the formula.
- A reduction from four calculations to one calculation for high school graduation rate after four years. Previously points were awarded for graduation after five-year and at-risk student graduation.
- College readiness measures in reading and mathematics (as measured by ACT/SAT/PERT scores) and accelerated coursework participation were also eliminated as individually scored components from the high school grades model.
To view the Commissioner's presentation, with the rest of the proposed updates presented at the February state board meeting, click here.
As mentioned in a previous blog post, there are some critical questions remaining regarding the proposed changes to the school grades model. To learn more about our recommendations for the changes, click here to read our latest policy brief.