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PRESS RELEASE

December 18, 2001

CONTACT: JoAnn Carrin or Adam Shores
(850) 488-9968

Crist, Cabinet Approve Grading Rule for School Accountability System

TALLAHASSEE — Ushering in a comprehensive new system of measuring the academic performance of students in Florida, Education Commissioner Charlie Crist joined Gov. Jeb Bush and fellow Cabinet members today in approving changes to the state's school accountability grading system.

Under the new system, a greater emphasis is put on higher performance standards, individual student progress is measured through learning gains and a strong focus is put on the lowest performing students in each school.

“This more diagnostic approach to measuring success in our schools will provide a better understanding of how well schools and students are performing,” said Crist. “Accountability is the key and this plan promises to open more doors for students as it will challenge them to work hard and achieve.”

The Cabinet, which sits as the State Board of Education, approved the changes to the school grading rule — a major component of the Bush/Brogan A+ Plan for Education — by a unanimous vote. A school's grade will now be determined based on three primary criteria:

The percentage of students meeting high standards on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) in reading and mathematics in grades 3-10 and writing in grades 4, 8 and 10.

The percentage of students demonstrating annual learning gains in FCAT math and reading within a year's time in grades 3-10. This can be determined by improving from one achievement level to the next, maintaining satisfactory achievement at level three or higher, or demonstrating more than one year's growth within level one or level two.

The progress in reading of the lowest 25 percent of students in each grade aggregated for each school. The minimum requirement for adequate progress is defined as at least 50 percent of these students making gains. If this is not met, a school's advisory council must devise a component in its School Improvement Plan to achieve these goals. If a school is designated as a “B” or “C” school and does not meet this minimum progress for two years in a row, it is subject to a one letter grade reduction.

“The changes we have made today benefit educators, students and parents alike,” said Crist. “We can now measure the progress of each individual student and at the same time assess the performance of an entire school as well as place a special focus on those students who need the most help.”

"Florida has taken the lead in value-added assessment," said Jim Horne, Secretary of the Florida Board of Education. "This new approach to assessment goes way beyond K-12 by being a vital tool to ensure that all students will be lifelong learners and will be prepared for the rigors of a high-tech world."

As a strong improvement upon the old school grading system, the new plan focuses on individual achievement, especially among the lowest performers in a school. This can most clearly be seen in the fact that in order for a school to earn an “A”, it must meet the minimum requirement of at least 50 percent of its lowest performers making adequate progress. Also, the difference between reading achievement among the lowest quartile and the reading achievement of the overall population of students tested must be within 10 percentage points of each other in order for a school to earn an “A”. This focus on reading — a cornerstone of a solid education — aims to ensure that all children have the essential skills to succeed.

“We have developed an exciting new concept in education that stresses both accountability and achievement, while not losing sight of the basic fundamentals of learning,” said Crist.