Part 1 – Florida’s School Performance Terminology
This is Part 1 in a series that culminates with the creation of a list of all Brevard Public & Charter Schools ranked in order of 2013 FCAT performance and provides Florida DOE grade rating.
When the state published school grades this summer, 38 of 74 Brevard County’s elementary, middle and charter schools dropped by a grade compared to 2012. This decline in grades was mirrored across the state. Why the decrease? Well, the Florida Department of Education has enacted more rigorous standards including tougher tests, changes in grading rules and the transition to Common Core standards. If this leaves you confused, you’re in good company.
Below is a quick overview on some of the key school performance terms used by our educators, media, politicians and legislators.
School Grades – Florida pioneered the A thru F school grade system in 1999. Assigning a letter grade is a way to report a school’s effectiveness in a manner everyone can understand. Every year the Florida Department of Education uses a formula to assign each public K-12 school a letter grade.
For elementary schools, letter grades are based on a school’s FCAT scores (performance & learning gains). Middle schools are similar to elementary but include a component for participation & performance in accelerated courses. For high schools there is a new formula. Only 50% of a high schools grade comes from FCAT results. The other half of the grade takes into account graduation rates, SAT results, participation and performance in college-level courses (e.g. AP -Advanced Placement courses). 2013 High school grades are expected to be released later this year. Check out the districit’s School Grades Q & A for more detail on grading formulas.
Safety Net – 2013 Brevard school grades could have been lower for a third of the schools. In 2012 amid growing controversy over Florida’s ever-changing quality measures, the state Board of Education imposed a one year ‘safety net’ to help schools cope. The ‘safety net’ prevents school from dropping by more than one letter grade on their state issued report cards. Last week the Florida State Board of Education voted to extend the ‘safety net’ through the 2014-15 school year, despite the complaints of some board members.
FCAT – The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is the foundation upon which the “Florida model” of education reform was built, serving as the basis for school and district report cards. An updated version of the standardized test, known as FCAT 2.0, began phasing out the original version in 2010. FCAT 2.0 is given to students as young as 3rd grade, and increases the difficulty of the math, science and reading tests. FCAT results comprise half of teacher evaluations once districts design their legislatively required merit pay systems.
Common Core – The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a states-led effort that establishes a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics. Common Core standards promote equity by ensuring all students, no matter where they live, are well prepared with the skills and knowledge necessary to collaborate and compete with their peers in the United States and abroad.
Florida joined 44 other states, the District of Columbia, 4 territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity in adopting the Common Core State Standards. States are collaborating to develop common assessments to replace existing end of year state assessments. Florida plans to replace FCAT 2.0 in 2014-15 when the new Common Core State Standards assessments were to be released. Recently, it was announced that Florida is pulling out of a state consortium designing Common Core aligned standarzied assessments. Check out this article for more information.
Keep in mind common core standards refer to ‘what’ students should know. Curriculum is ‘how’ those students learn those standards. Curriculum (e.g. lesson plans, books, classroom materials, etc..) choices will still be handled locally after Common Core is fully in place.
Understanding what is meant by: school grades, safety net, FCAT, and Common Core helped me in my quest for a single ranked list of Brevard County Schools. Did I miss any big items?
Part 2 – “Creating a Ranked List” to be published next week