The Problems with Florida’s School Grade Formula Cannot Be Fixed

By Greg Sampson 
Perhaps
the most pressing issue generating consensus among the attendees at the
Clearwater Education Summit is the school grade formula. The consensus:
something needs to happen to restore the fairness, accuracy, and credibility of
Florida’s School Accountability scheme.
Thus the vision statement from
the Department of Education: School grades must be fair, simple, clear,
understandable and transparent, based upon student learning outcomes and
objective measures. The school grading system should be statistically valid,
trustworthy and sustainable. It must accurately reflect school performance and
motivate achievement.
They don’t get it. The
Department of Education and the State Board of Education have monkeyed around
with changing standards, performance levels (known as “cut scores”), and
emergency rules that they have lost credibility with educational professionals,
parents, and the general public alike.
Even NASCAR, which changes the
rules every time they don’t like the results, applies the changes moving
forward—to the next race. Florida’s Department of Education, however, along
with the State Board of Education, thinks it appropriate to retroactively apply
rule changes—grading formula changes—whenever they don’t like the results the
formula produces.
When I read the statements on
FLDOE’s website, I come across references that vaguely refer to provisions that
will reset performance levels upward, thus lowering assigned school grades, if
too many schools in a given year make an A or B under the formula.
To
state it clearly, they change the rules until they get the results they want.
Do you wonder why teachers feel
they are merely grist for the mill?
 The school grading formula is
constantly tinkered with to produce two statements of propaganda for the media:
one, that Florida’s schools excel because of the politicians and bureaucrats
forcing these awful schools to improve (that’s right, they take the credit for
the achievement of people who actually work in the schools); two, they have to
continue to punish the people who work in the schools because they are the
reason schools are failing.
Wait a minute—the schools are
outstanding and awful at the same time?
Does anyone still believe these
people?
There
is the problem. The Clearwater summit assumes that the Department of Education
and the State Board can be trusted on this. We have learned they cannot be
trusted, even though we do not have a scandal where the grading formula was
changed to accommodate a political donor.
Imagine how that would work in
the classroom. Teacher Jane Doe changes her grading formula so that Johnny, the
star quarterback, no longer has the F he deserves but now passes with a C. When
called into the principal’s office, Ms. Doe justifies her grading change
because it helped 20 other students also.
Tony Bennett resigned, to the
expressed chagrin of our politicians in the State. The logical conclusion is
that they own the problem themselves.
Do you still trust them to be
able to objectively grade Florida’s schools?
Until the State of Florida
outsources its accountability program, which we know as school grades, to an
independent organization outside the influence and control of the politicians
and bureaucrats, you cannot believe in any school grades they assign.
(Greg Sampson is a DCPS teacher on special assignment as the
instructional math coach for his school, which is located on the Westside.)

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