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The School Grad Sham By Jodi Conn
As the shock of Florida’s declining school grades hover, the public is asking questions like why, how, and what is Rick Scott doing? What I found was much confusion and not great answers.
While Jeb Bush was in office between 1999 and 2007 he helped create the state’s current A- to- F grading system called The Common Core Standards. The standards were implemented as a way of raising expectations for students who may not be ready for college or a career and helping our students compete nationally and internationally. But what started as raising standards has turned into a fiasco. Here are some points to ponder: 1. This year the state began using the new, harder FCAT. They saw the decline in grades and said that no school should decline by more than one grade, so they padded the scores and suspended some provisions of the grading formula.
2. Students in special education and English-Language learner programs are now counted with the overall performance scores.
3. After the unexpected decline in writing scores, the state Board of Education dropped those scores.
4. If a student does not pass the FCAT no matter what their grade is on their report card, they will not proceed to the next grade. The school board is now spending time and money looking into individual cases of students that should move forward.
5. Rick Scott has now called for public hearings and changes to the Common core State Standards and said the state will pull out of a national testing consortium developing high-stakes tests that would measure the new standards. The test is known as PARCC – Partnership for assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The appointed board that oversees Florida’s public schools has already adopted the PARCC and the state is moving ahead to implement them. Some schools are already using the standards and their plan is to fully implement them in the 2014-2015 school year.
What does this all mean, the state started a new, harder FCAT score and then padded the scores? Students in special education programs are counted along with the performance test? After the decline of writing scores, they are thrown out? The state is spending money to look at individual cases of students being held back? And Rick Scott has decided to not use the PARCC that the state has spent money to implement?
Here are a few comments from professionals throughout Tampa: Bob Schaffer, spokesman for FairTest says, “The grades have as much validity as readings from a Ouija board.” Andy Ford, president of the state teachers union says, “The scores were of little value and that many teachers don’t have faith in the arbitrary manner in which the state calculates the grades.” Some superintendents and school leaders are saying the state needs to re-examine its testing model. “We can explain all we want to about why we’ve seen a drop in school grades this year but the bottom line, we absolutely must return the focus to our students and what’s best for them……”
I couldn’t have said it better.
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