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Proposal to Simplify School Grading Passes Senate Education Committee

March 3, 2014 - 6:00pm

The Senate Education Committee approved a proposal Tuesday morning that would simplify Florida's often-criticized grading system.

The proposal, SBP 7060, would require the Department of Education to develop a district report card and revise the criteria that "necessitate a schools improvement plan" to include certain strategies. In addition, the proposal would eliminate the bonus points schools can receive and the triggers that may cause a school's grade to drop. It would also eliminate parts of the formula including, five-year graduation rates.

The committee approved the proposed bill with a 5-1 vote.

SBP 7060 comes on the heels of a similar proposal made by Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart last month.

Among Stewart's proposed changes: cutting out SAT scores and certain graduation rates from the complex formula used to evaluate high schools and requiring schools letter grades to drop if less than 25 percent of a schools students are reading at grade level. Under Stewarts proposal, Floridas schools will be graded on four factors: achievement, learning gains, graduation, and college credit or industry certifications.

Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, was the only member of the committee to vote against the bill, recalling his time as both a student and an educator as some personal reasons why he couldn't get on board with the proposed legislation.

"At the end of the day, you can put a new coat of paint on a '72 Pinto, but it doesn't make me want to buy it," he said. "I still don't support the bill or the school grading formula."

But other members of the committee were more positive, saying the bill would help the Sunshine State get back on the right track to a simplified school grading process.

"I do think this gets us back to the basics," said Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity. "This is not the end product, but I think it's a step in the right direction."

Floridas grading formula has gathered considerable criticism due to a series of changes over recent years. Four years ago the department added as components several categories to the formula, such as graduation rates and SAT scores.

In 2012, the State Board of Education established a safety net, which would protect individual schools from dropping more than a letter grade in a year. The safety net was extended last summer after superintendents voiced concerns that the grading formula was too tough and would result in statewide school grades plummeting.

The proposal will now head to other legislative committees for further consideration.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen atAllison@sunshinestatenews.comor follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.

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