Florida’s School Grade Chaos: “Raising the Bar” Became “Moving the Bar After Everyone Jumped”

Florida Public Employees

December 29, 2013


By   – Scathing Purple Musings

Is anyone really surprised to see the Miami Herald has another story about Florida’s school grades with ”confused parents” and the “credibility gap facing Florida education leaders?”


The Florida Department of Education unfairly has to hold the bag again – the school grade system was created by Jeb Bush, largely driven by his foundations and rubber-stamped by the republican-dominated legislature.

Florida Department of Education spokesman Joe Follick dismissed the suggestion that Florida’s school grades — as extremes of both success and failure — amount to one giant contradiction. Though all school grades are heavily influenced by standardized test scores, Follick noted that high school grades also include other factors such as graduation rates and student participation in rigorous courses, such as Advanced Placement.

“Those are things that are measurable in high school that, by definition, cannot be measured in elementary and middle schools,” Follick said. He added that school grades are an “important and a valuable tool” that helps drives community discussion of “what do we value, what do we want to measure, and what do we expect from our kids when they graduate.”

Follick wasn’t – and couldn’t even if he wanted to – giving a mea culpa. Issuing school grades was a bad idea from the start. Driven thematic mantras of the education reform movement, “holding schools accountable,” and “raise the bar,” Florida’ school grade system has become what detractors said all along.

Aaron Pallas, a professor who studies school accountability systems at Columbia University’s Teachers College, said the “very jarring” discrepancy presents a political problem for the Department of Education. It’s hard for the public to accept, he said, that Florida high schools are a rousing success at the exact same time that all other schools are setting new lows for failure.

Pallas said there’s no proof that elementary and middle schools are truly performing worse than before. He attributed this year’s surge in F grades to Florida changing the passing score on the writing test that younger students take. Instead of a 3.0 being sufficient, students this year needed to get a 3.5. The test is scored on a 6 point scale

There’s no science that said that a 3.5 was a more-appropriate standard,” Pallas said. “That was just a judgment made by the Department of Education.”
Instead of “raising the bar” they were moving the bar after everybody jumped. But what’s as close to a mea culpa as Floridians will get came from outgoing board member of former Bush chief of staff Kathleen Shanahan when she said last year that the school grade formula was ”no longer a statistically valid model.” That’s what happens when you do all that bar raisin’.
Many observers – including this writer – feels that people like Shanahan, her former bossand many Florida republican legislators wanted our schools to fail. Maybe Rick Scott did, too. At least when he got the job initially and he showed the Michelle Rhee charter school propaganda film, Waiting for Superman to legislators during the transition period.
None were ever motivated solely by the noble cause of helping kids. It was about privatizing education, breaking teacher unions, installing more charter schools or expanding vouchers. It was about making money and gaining permanent control. The Common Core con is more of the same. Chaos usually ensues when a hidden agenda is the driving force.

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