Annual School Grades Fall Sharply Thanks to New Standards
Published July 30th, 2013
GAINESVILLE - There has been a sharp drop in the number of top-graded schools in north central Florida. School officials say that's due to tougher standards, not poorer performance.
Seven elementary and middle schools across Alachua County received an "A" ranking from the state this year. By comparison, more than 20 schools received the top grade last year.
Of the 50 total schools within Alachua County, 21 dropped by one letter grade compared to the year before. If you exclude charter schools and only count public schools, that number falls to 17.
School officials say the lower grades were expected, in part because of a new statewide evaluation system which requires students to achieve higher scores on the FCAT before schools can earn an "A" grade.
"Our writing scores are what hurt us the most," said Dr. Gunnar Paulson, a former educator and member of the Alachua County School Board. Previously, student scores on the FCAT writing test had to average out to at least a score of three or higher before a school could earn an "A" grade. Under the state's new standards, that average score becomes a 3.5.
Despite the lower grades, school board officials say individual student test scores were still higher, just not high enough to meet the state's new standards. In fact, all 17 of the public schools in Alachua County that fell a letter grade would have stayed the same under the old standards.
The Alachua County School Board is expected to discuss the issue further at its next meeting on Aug. 6.