2012-2013 School Grades: 'A' Schools Drop, 'F' Schools Rise
Around the State
Florida schools with an "A" grade have decreased and schools with an "F" grade have increased, according to the state Department of Education's 2012-2013 academic year school performance list, released Friday morning.
The number of "A" schools dropped 19 percent, while the number of “F” schools increased from 2 percent to 4 percent. The number of “D” schools also rose from 8 percent to 13 percent from last year’s grades. Other gains in “B” and “C” schools were visible, but small.
Broward County’s district grade dropped from a “B” to a “C.” Palm Beach County lost its coveted “A” district status and fell to a “B” district in 2013. Palm Beach County wasn’t alone -- 12 other districts fell from grace, dropping from an “A” to “B” letter grade in 2013.
Orange County fell from a “B” district to a “C” district. Hillsborough County’s district grade went down from a “B” to a “C.”
Common Core was at the forefront of the release of grades, as the new education standards will be fully implemented in schools by the 2014-2015 school year. The Common Core State Standards aim to help students perform at a higher level and think critically about the material they learn in school.
“This year’s grades highlight schools that require our immediate attention and support,” said Bennett. “The department will focus its attention on the schools most in need of assistance and work with educators to prepare them for the implementation of Common Core State Standards.”
“By acknowledging where our challenges are currently, we can best prepare for a successful future,” said Board Chairman Gary Chartrand. “Maintaining high and consistent standards between now and 2014-15 will ensure that students and teachers are prepared for the exciting new possibilities of Common Core State Standards.”
Earlier this month, Bennett made changes to the grading formula that included a safety net to save schools from dropping more than one letter grade in a year. He also advised ending the practice of transferring the test scores of students attending special education centers back to their home schools.
Bennett's recommendations marked a second time that Florida's grading formula has undergone eleventh-hour changes. Last year, board members changed writing exam cut scores due to poor student performance.
Some districts, like Miami-Dade, seem to have several schools that benefited from the safety net provision.
Bennett contributed the decline in school letter grades to an increase in school standards.
“Today's school grades are indicative of the fact that we have continued to raise standards for Florida's children,” said Bennett. “We wanted to make sure we didn’t compromise student expectations and I think the decline of the letter grade is indicative that we did not do that.”
Bennett spoke candidly when discussing schools that had received “F” grades.
“These schools received that score even with the safety net provision,” he said. “I think when we get schools that are in the 'F' range, I think we must be prepared to have very candid discussions on how we can improve those schools and make them better.”
The commissioner warned it was very possible Florida’s schools could see a repeat in the score drops next year, but that over the next three to five years, students would rise to the higher standards and would eventually begin to perform better in “virtually every area.”
“This is very likely to be a phenomenon we are going to see in 2014-2015,” Bennett told reporters. “I have believed as an educator, coach, parent [that] improved performance generally always follows increased expectations. Increasing expectations precedes improved performance.”
Executive director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future, Patricia Levesque, echoed Bennett’s statement.
“The drop in grades is to be expected, since reading and math performance was stagnant or declining this year,” said Levesque. “Florida is in a period of transition to more rigorous standards. And now more than ever we need to focus on the basics and on student learning to get the results we know students and schools can achieve. That requires a refocus on the fundamentals of reading and mathematics and advancing the lowest performing students. If student learning is the focus, the 'A's and 'B's will come.”
School grade reports can be accessed at http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org/.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at firstname.lastname@example.org.