Florida Senate Republicans Ignore Superintendents, Jeb Bush Abandons College Readiness in First Passage of New School Grade Bill

It comes as no surprise the republican-dominated Senate Education Committee didn’t listen to the recommendations of two school superintendents in passing through the new and improved school grade formula. Nor is it any surprise Jeb Bush’s mouthpiece finds it just swell. Reports Miami Herald reporter Kathleen McGrory:

The Senate Education Committee got right to work Tuesday morning, approving a proposal that would simplify the oft-criticized school grading formula.

The bill (SB 7060) looks similar to recommendations made last month by state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. It eliminates the bonus points schools can earn, as well as the so-called triggers that automatically cause a school grade to drop. It also removes several factors from the complex formula used to evaluate high schools, including five-year graduation rates and some college readiness measures.

Schools would continue to receive A-F grades during the transition to a new formula. But there would be no consequences for poor performance in the first year.

The education committee made two tweaks to Stewart’s original recommendations. They added a provision that would give middle schools credit for participation and performance in high-school classes.

The panel approved the proposed committee bill by a 5-1 vote.

“I do think this gets us back to the basics,” said Legg, R-Trinity. “It gets us back to the purpose of a simple, transparent process where we can communicate what is going on in the school to the parents. This is not the end product, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.”

Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, cast the lone vote against the proposal.

“At the end of the day, you can put a new coat of paint on a ’72 Pinto, but it doesn’t make me want to buy it,” Bullard said. “I still don’t support the bill or the school grading formula.”

Patricia Levesque, of (Jeb Bush’s) Foundation for Florida’s Future, said she was pleased to see a simplified formula. “We urge you continue to move down this path,” she said.

Leave it to an educator to point out the obvious. Bay superintendent William Husfeldt reminded Sen. Jeff Legg’s committee that the state doesn’t even have tests selected for next year – an inconvenient fact for republicans –  and that “we are playing a game right now, saying we think this plane can land, but it’s not even in the air yet.”

Even one of the Bush-way cabal’s own, Duval superintendent Nikolai Vitti, found something troubling in the new formula:

“If you remove college readiness for reading, college readiness for math and acceleration participation, those numbers will go backwards… ” Vitti said. “If you don’t include the participating indicator, there is no incentive to make sure that kids who are on the fringes academically, mainly those kids who are minority and those who are poor, take those classes.”

Levesque’s cheerleading, while predictable, catches her in a contradiction. Removing college readiness incentives is at odds with the syrupy trip down memory lane she took just 10 days ago in her opinion piece which appeared in a hand full of state newspapers.

According to the tenth annual College Board Report to the Nation, Florida once again ranks among the top five states in the percent of high school graduates who have passed an Advanced Placement with a score of 3 or higher.  When you consider Florida has a 59 percent student poverty rate, we are excelling by elevating traditionally disadvantaged students.

There are two reasons for this success.

First, the state enacted specific policies to encourage AP participation. These include paying AP exam fees and giving teachers bonuses for their students who pass the exams. Those bonuses go up substantially for teachers in low-income schools…..

…Encouraging AP participation will not succeed without a pipeline of students who can do the work.  We have far to go in expanding this pipeline because too many students still are not passing the exams. But that we have made remarkable progress and have become a national leader in AP success, particularly for disadvantaged students, is not in doubt.

Levesque’s abandonment of college readiness as part of Florida’s school grade carrot-and- stick reveals that her boss just wants a school grade formula – any school grade formula to continue.




About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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