Grading Public Schools

For the sixth year in a row, Miami Lakes Educational Center has kept its title as an ‘A’ school. Although its students and parents find pride in its standing, most do not know what is taken into consideration when grading.

Half of Florida’s traditional high schools earned an ‘A’ grade for 2012, which is a sixteen percent increase compared to last year, according to http://www.orlandosentinel.com. The improvement was partially due to better performance in the Reading and Math sections of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, as well as the increasing graduation rate– results in both of these areas are major factors when grading.

Other factors that go into determining a school’s grade come from the school’s performance and learning gains, along with participation and performance in advanced courses.

In Indiana, state policymakers use a similar method of grading their schools by using a “growth model.”

The policymakers use the growth model by collecting a student’s results on a standardized test; they continue to track the student’s academic progress over the next school year through their standardized test scores. This helps the Department of Education determine the growth of the state’s students in one academic year.

Increases in academic performance are a big factor when grading schools and it brings up a question: What happens when an ‘A’ school reaches its limits?

Schools that are already at an ‘A’ find it difficult to increase their academic performance; schools that have a lower grade have the ability to earn higher percentages and therefore reach a higher grade.

If the schools do not show an academic increase, their grade goes down.

A direct factor to performance, a school’s funding indirectly plays a major part in a school’s final grading. If funding is decreased or if budget cuts are made, academic programs that are necessary to help students no longer become available, which reduces the school’s ability to grow.

This is exactly what happened to some schools in Volusia County.

“I am not making excuses, but our ability to support the lower-performing students has been impacted,” said Candace Lankford, a School Board member. “Lack of resources are affecting outcomes.”

In addition to FCAT scores, End-of-Course exam scores now play a factor in grading. In 2012, the Algebra 1 EOC results were taken in as a factor for the first time, as well as Geometry and Biology 1.

In Miami Dade, all test scores are taken into consideration, including the results from students with “disabilities and English language learners with at least one year of instruction in the U.S.”

General Robinson, Commissioner of Education, sent out a letter to parents last July in which he addressed the changes in grading with an optimistic point of view.

“The combination of changes to Florida’s accountability system will cause a temporary drop in some school grades.” said Robinson “However, we can also expect student performance to improve as it did in 2007 when Florida made revisions to the school grading formula. At first, the number of A and B schools fell from about 2,000 to 1,952, but, in the two years that followed, A and B schools rose to 2,317.”

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