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Guidelines to Appeal a School Grade by Schools Impacted by Hurricanes

Many Floridians continue to face great challenges as a result of this year's active hurricane season. With four major hurricanes hitting the state, Governor Jeb Bush and the Florida Department of Education (DOE) have worked closely with each school district to assist in the restoration process, as well as provide the necessary flexibility to get our children back in the classroom. Certainly, this will be a challenging school year for many families around the state, but not one on which we should give up. It is necessary that we as a state, return to a sense of normalcy and not give up on our children's quality education. This year, as our children maintain the trend of rising above expectations, we must be compassionate to those students in the most challenging situations. The most heavily impacted districts are already passing their extraordinary tests, and students are excited to be in school. Every parent wants to ensure their child is making progress in school, and we will continue to hold our schools accountable, ensuring every child learns a year's worth of knowledge and is prepared to meet the challenges of the next grade level. However, after school grades are released this year, DOE will be offering a Hurricane Grade Appeal for those districts proving the effects of the hurricanes were significant enough to impact overall student performance.

The Hurricane Grade Appeal will be part of the regular 30 day school grades appeals process next summer. Certain districts significantly impacted by the hurricanes, can appeal a schools grade that meet the specific guidelines and continue to maintain high standards for student achievement. These districts can appeal on behalf of the school, without discounting specific students, or waiving the school grade.

The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test achievement level cut scores will remain at the levels designated in State Board of Education Rule 6A-1.09981.

Every school district has closed for at least one day; however, certain school districts were more adversely impacted than others. Therefore, it is important to identify the guidelines for a school to appeal its grade based on the hurricane impact. The following guidelines allow for additional flexibility for those districts most severally impacted.

Eligibility Guidelines for Hurricane School Grade Appeal:

  1. School has missed more than 5 days due to hurricane closure.
  2. School has been granted a waiver from the 180 day requirement and/or a delay in FCAT testing.
  3. The 2005 school grade is significantly lower than it has been in the past three years.
  4. School has sustained or improved performance over the last three years.
  5. School sees a drop in student performance that transcends individual components. For example, reading and math learning gains and performance must both drop significantly.
  6. School must have dropped more than one or more letter grades.

Schools who believe they meet the above criteria should be prepared to present a preponderance of evidence to demonstrate the following circumstances once the FCAT results are returned and school grades are issued.

Guidelines for a school grade appeal, the school district must demonstrate that:

  1. The school itself has had an extraordinary event related to hurricane that significantly affected learning environment. Examples include the dislocation of a significant number of students or requiring double sessions.
  2. An unusually high percentage of students experienced documented trauma due to the hurricane that had a lasting effect, such as a significant percent of students' families had major home damage, loss of employment or loss of loved one.
  3. Schools must demonstrate that the Sunshine State Standards were taught.
  4. The school grade decrease is not attributable to factors such as:
    • including ESE and LEP students in learning gains;
    • the higher writing standard;
    • shifts in student populations (accepting new students from other schools, districts or states);
    • other non hurricane related factors.

Please be assured that the normal school grade and AYP appeals process will be followed for all other schools. The office responsible for issuing school grades is available to work with districts and discuss the appeals process and options for schools experiencing extraordinary circumstances related to the impact of hurricanes. Please contact the school grading office at 850-245-0411 with any questions and for additional information.