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FEA president: School grades are of little value
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Education Association President Andy Ford said today that the school grades that the Florida Department of Education (DOE) released are of little value and that many teachers and education professionals don’t have faith in the arbitrary manner in which the state calculates the grades.
“The FEA has not wavered in the belief that all schools -- public, charter and private schools that receive public funding -- should be held accountable for teaching and learning, have high standards and produce rigorous programs,” said Ford, noting that years before the FCAT, FEA was in support of a statewide assessment system. “But since its inception 14 years ago, the FCAT has evolved from a simple diagnostic measure of student learning to an all-encompassing arbiter of student, teacher and school performance. The misused FCAT results factor into third-grade promotion, high school graduation, class placement, teacher pay and evaluations, and even whether a school is converted to a charter school or stays open. FEA and teachers aren't opposed to testing or accountability; we lack confidence in the FCAT and how test results are being misused. We all want to know what students are learning and have trust that any assessment be an accurate representation of what students are learning and what has been taught.”
Ford said that the DOE has released its grades for each public school under yet another new set of standards and calculations. This has resulted in fewer schools receiving top grades and more schools receiving disappointing grades.
“The formula to calculate school grades is extremely elaborate and complicated,” Ford said. “The State Board of Education (SBOE) has changed the proficiency levels and point requirements used to calculate school grades numerous times over the years. One year’s “A” could be the next year’s “C” based solely on a formula calculation. These changes make it virtually impossible to compare and judge the quality of public schools.”
Ford said that school grades have fluctuated because the SBOE and the state DOE have initiated too many changes simultaneously without giving districts and teachers the time needed to adjust the curriculum and instruction. Along with changing the calculation formula, they have made the tests more difficult, instituted higher passing scores and required computerized testing. All of these changes and requirements occurred as the Legislature decreased funding to school districts.
“The expanded uses of the flawed FCAT to retain students, evaluate teachers and administrators, and rank schools and districts call into question the tremendous academic gains our students, teachers and schools have achieved,” Ford said. “There have been too many errors and subjective judgments in the FCAT-devised accountability system for parents, educators and the public to find it credible and constructive.”
Ford said that FEA agrees with frustrated parents that the state needs a way to measure students’ learning progress.
“FEA joins parents, teachers, administrators and school board members in support of a fair, accurate, trustworthy and reliable accountability system,” Ford said. “The state’s political leadership should bring all these parties together to formulate a system that everyone values and trusts.”
The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with more than 140,000 members. FEA represents pre K-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational support professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.
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