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DOE revises grades for more than 200 schools

The Florida Department of Education is once again being criticized after it revised more than 200 school grades in some 40 districts. This comes a month after it released the scores. The move is the latest in a series of fumbles over the state’s school accountability system. And it’s causing more people to voice concerns over whether Florida is testing too much.

Some observers are commending the department for catching the error and fixing it fast, but others aren’t so thrilled with what the state has been doing. Leon County School Superintendent Jackie Pons is one of them.

“We’ve changed these things so quickly and in such a hurry, that now we’re making mistakes. There’s so much FCAT fatigue, that the test is starting to lose credibility.”  

The Department has been under heavy criticism for several months. As the state increased the difficulty of the FCAT it also made changes to the formula used to grade schools. When FCAT scores came in lower than expected, school grades dropped as well. And some state officials like State Senator Bill Montford, says Florida needs to slow down with the changes and figure out what its goals are:

“Someone needs to pull everyone together at the table and make some decisions. Let’s find out where we are today and what’s being demanded of school districts and what resources are needed to accomplish that. And if we can do it, then let’s do it. And if we can’t, then we need to adjust the scale.” 

But state officials like Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson say the moves are meant to get students ready for even tougher tests coming soon. In about two years Florida will be joining more than 40 other states in bringing in a nationalized test to replace the FCAT. That test is called the common core. And Jaryn Emhoff, a spokeswoman for the school reform group the Foundation for Florida’s Future, says the pain the state’s education system is enduring now, will pay off when those common core tests start up in 2015.

“The changes now and the increase in rigor is to prepare students so there isn’t as much of a shock three years from now. The thing about common core is that it’s benchmarked to our competitors around the world.”  

But getting there is proving difficult. After results for the writing test released earlier in the year showed only about a quarter of students passed, the state was flooded with concerns from worried parents. Several school districts signed petitions either in opposition to standardized testing or calling for changes to the way such tests are used. And Governor Rick Scott recently expressed concerns that the state may be testing too much.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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