Marie-Claire Leman 0

Suspend School Grades

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October 27, 2015

Dear Superintendent Pons,

We, the undersigned, are residents of Indianhead-Lehigh, Woodland Drives and Myers Park neighborhoods. In advance of this week's Board of Education meeting in Orlando, we are asking that you continue to stand firm with other Superintendents across the State in calling for the suspension of the issuance of school grades for the 2014-15 school year.

To echo our State Senator, Bill Montford, these school grades, if allowed to be issued, would be based on

  • a flawed administration of the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA);
  • an assessment that was not 100-percent aligned to the Florida Standards;
  • suspect and incomplete data; and
  • the absence of baseline data to calculate learning gains as required by Florida Statute 10008.34(3)(b).

While the Department of Education has declared that schools will not suffer any penalty tied to school grades this year, there is no preventing the decline in reputation that follows a decline in school grade. It is difficult for the general public to understand the inherent limitation of these school grades as a measure of the quality of any given school.

We commend your courageous decision to shield teacher evaluations from the possible negative effect of FSA results and we understand that the Florida School Recognition Program is outside of your purview, however, we continue to be concerned about schools being rendered ineligible for this program based on their school grade thus directly impacting potential faculty and staff bonuses.

We applaud you and the Leon County School Board (ref. Resolution of October 13, 2015) for requesting that the DOE be required to 'collect FSA data for multiple years prior to establishing fair and accurate standards for calculating learning gains, issuing any form of school grades, and determining assessment-based student promotion requirements, teacher evaluations and performance pay'.

For our neighborhood school, Hartsfield Elementary, the absence of learning gains in the calculation of school grades is of particular concern. The Statute prescribes that a full 50% of the school grade calculation for elementary schools be based on learning gains. Without this crucial component, the system would incentivize investing in only those students who are expected to reach proficiency levels and penalize teachers and schools that dedicate themselves to teaching students who arrive in their classrooms working below grade level and ensure that these students make a year's worth of gain in a year's worth of time.

On Wednesday, when you represent Leon County Schools in Orlando, we hope that you will reiterate that issuing school grades this year would be detrimental to many of your schools, teachers, students and communities.


Residents of Indianhead Lehigh Acres, Woodland Drives and Myers Park

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