TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Tallahassee.com) -- Education Commissioner Pam Stewart is presenting a plan to the Board of Education Tuesday to simplify the state's 10 1/2-year-old grading system for schools.
Stewarthas proposed reducing the number of measures used to calculate the A-F grades and stripping away automatic scoring adjustments.School superintendents, who back a simplified grading system, are also asking for a suspension of letter grades as the state moves to the Common Core State Standards.
Under Stewart's plan the 1600-point system used to rate high schools would be reduced to 10 measures starting in 2015, the first year new tests are expected to replace the FCAT. Schools wouldn't face new state interventions during that "baseline" year, but the grading system would not be suspended.
Some measures that have been added to the formula - like the graduation rate for students considered "at-risk" and college-readiness points based on students SAT and ACT scores - would be eliminated.
Stewart has also proposed doing away with the additional measures that automatically lower school grades if they do not meet certain requirements.
This year, Leon and Lincoln High Schools both earned enough points for A's but had their grades adjusted to B's. Leon did not hit the state's target graduation rate for at-risk students while Lincoln fell short of the state's progress requirements for the lowest-performing 25 percent of students.
Parts of Stewart's plan are "dead on," Reginald James, the superintendent of Gadsden County Schools, said Monday. He said he agrees the formula needs to be "streamlined," but if the state is going to reduce the number of measures tied to struggling students, some of the proposals "will still need ironing out to ensure there aren't loopholes that leave children behind."
The plan would require changes in state law, and legislative leaders have already said lawmakers should do away with some recent additions to the formula. Many of the requirements Stewart is looking to remove were added to the formula in the past five years.
"We had a grading system that worked for awhile. We got a little bit cute and tried to add things to it, and I think it's led us down the path of where we are today," House Speaker Will Weatherford told a gather of reporters this month. "We could probably go back to the past and look at how it was working before as a good guide for maybe what it ought to look like in the future."
The school grading proposal could be overshadowed by another controversy when the state board meets this morning in Orlando.
The board is set to vote on its proposed revisions to the Common Core State Standards it adopted three and a half years ago.
By Travis Pillow, Florida Capital Bureau
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