The editors of the Lakeland Ledger have complete grasp of the timeline of events concerning Florida’s school grade system. They aren’t impressed:
After all the changes made to Florida’s school grading system, it’s hard to have a good sense of what grades should be given to schools.
The grade that should be given to lawmakers and state officials who developed the system is clear: a big, fat F. They’ve utterly failed to create a coherent, transparent and consistent system for gauging school quality.
Glad to see lawmakers being held accountable for this mess for a change by writing they “utterly failed”. The Ledger points out that calls for a pause in assigning school grades may have picked up House Speaker Will Weatherford who said last week the legislature “should consider a one-year hiatus on grades or the “teeth” associated with them.”
Many observers – including this writer – expect Weatherford to flip-flop after Commissioner Pam Stewart gives her proposal for a new formula later this month as it will strengthen “the teeth associated with them.” It’s called political posturing, Boys and Girls.
There’s a new player in Florida education policy-making. State board of education chairman Gary Chartrand founded the Jacksonville Public Education Fund in 2009 and it just released recommendations for improvements to the formula. The Ledger explains:
The recommendations include expanding the score ranges for each letter grade. That would prevent volatile changes in grades when there are changes in student test scores.
The group proposes broadening the formula for grades to include factors such as attendance, discipline and the percentage of highly effective teachers. It also recommends limiting changes to the formula.
As the report noted, the formula and components used to calculate the meaning of school grades have been changed dozens of times — including 16 changes in 2010 alone. That doesn’t include additional changes to educational policies, standards and tests that all have an impact on grades.
The JPED proposal appears to have some promise, but their emergence on the stage marks a return of the sort of creepy, incestuous, conflict-of-interests that have poisoned state education policy-making for over a decade. With Jeb Bush’s foundations pivoting to other state capitals, Chartrand’s group is parachuting in to take over.
Funded by charter schools, technology corporations and testing giants, Bush drove policy which favored his paymasters in the name of “accountability” and “choice.” At least he wasn’t directly involved any more.
Not so with Chartrand who gets to preside over implementation of school grades as state board chair after helping direct the actual policy through JPED. He’s Pam Stewart’s boss too. And oh, that’s right, he’s on the board of KIPP charter schools of Jacksonville.
The Ledger asserts that it “makes little sense to plow ahead with school grades because of the uncertainty of last-minute changes.” In the end, state superintendents will be ignored, Weatherford will get on-board, and Chartrand and the board will rubber-stamp Stewart’s proposal that is sure to include much of what JPED had in their proposal.
And so it goes in the vacuum of Florida education policy-making.