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Task Force Convenes As School Grade Drop Looms

Changes to Florida’s school accountability system could lead to a big drop in school grades this year.

Expectations for student learning are increasing as the state tries to align its standards with those adopted by more than 40 states. The new standards, called the common core, will be in place by 2015. But stagnant student scores on this year’s state exams show students are struggling with the higher expectations, and education officials are considering changing the way the state grades schools:

“Obviously the state board heard your concerns, the concerns of the superintendents at the June meeting. One of the things the chairman charged me with doing was coming back with a recommendation," said Education Commissioner Tony Bennett Monday to  to a task force of state and local education officials.

The state board of education convened the group to recommend changes to Florida’s accountability formula, which rates schools on an A-F scale. Hillsboro County School Superintendent Mary Ellen Elia says a lot is at stake:

“There is big money in accountability in Florida, and I think that’s important thing as well. Those schools that do particularly well, they can anticipate that they’ll have the opportunity....so it’s extremely important we get this right.”   

Poor performing schools are at risk of being overhauled by having their administrators removed, being converted into a private or charter school or being shut down completely. Some school officials want the state to reinstate a rule preventing school grades from dropping more than a letter. That happened last year when the state was in a similar position. Others want a pause or a revamp of the school accountability system until common core is completely in place.

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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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