So just how much did your high school really improve?
From the Palm Beach Post’s editorial board, By Jac Versteeg
Florida’s high school grades for last year are out, and they show… what? For an alleged accountability system, the state-assigned grades show very little.
The state Department of Education warned that parents and students can’t learn much by comparing new grades with previous ones because the formula for computing them has changed significantly. Still, top-level education officials touted the sharp increase in A-rated high schools — to 231 from 148. Florida Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand said it shows that “Florida’s teachers and students continue to meet the challenge of higher academic expectations. When we expect more from our students they achieve more.”
Sounds good. In fact, the state inflated the grades by using what the state DOE called “temporary safeguards…to help smooth the transition” to tougher standards.
High schools that didn’t do a good job improving scores of their lowest-performing students got a break. That’s the opposite of No Child Left Behind. Science skills, or lack of them, didn’t count because the science FCAT has lapsed. The acceptable graduation rate for at-risk students was dialed back to 65 percent from 75 percent. Participation in Advanced Placement classes counted more than actual scores on AP tests.
This grading scheme is an improvement because factors other than the FCAT count for 50 percent. Rather, it will be an improvement if the state ever puts in place all the valid components it promises, including meaningful end-of-course tests in most subjects. Still, assigning a grade to an entire school always will be suspect. What’s the point, particularly if the state fudges the figures? Individual grades matter. School grades remain a function of politics, not academics.