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PRESS RELEASE

June 29, 2007

Tom Butler
(850) 245-0413

Commissioner Blomberg Congratulates "A" and "B" Schools

~ Two-thirds of graded public schools achieve high-performing status ~

TALLAHASSEE – Education Commissioner Jeanine Blomberg today announced that more than two-thirds of all graded public schools received “A” or “B” grades in this year’s grading calculation. School grades for Florida’s public schools included three new components, raising standards and increasing accountability.“I congratulate the educators, administrators, parents and students of our high performing schools for their hard work and dedication,” Commissioner Blomberg said. “As we focus on meeting the educational needs of our students, we will continue to do all that we can to ensure that all of our students are achieving to the best of their ability. I am confident that our schools will rise to the challenge of higher standards as we persist in improving Florida’s schools.”

The three new components added to this year’s school grade formula are science FCAT scores, learning gains in mathematics among the lowest-performing students, and passing scores for 11th and 12th graders retaking the Grade 10 reading and mathematics FCAT exams.

Typically, when schools’ performance expectations are raised and new components are added to the school grade formula, the number of low-performing schools will initially, temporarily increase. However, historical data indicates that schools immediately respond in the following year with improved grades. This progression is normal and necessary for the evolution of higher educational standards.

Since 1999, Florida has raised its standards for achievement three times in order to ensure students are prepared for the rigor of postsecondary education and the workforce. This year, the bar was raised for the third time.

New Components to School Grades

Science FCAT Scores:

The school grade formula now includes Science FCAT scores as a part of the overall grade calculation. Schools earn one point for each percent of students who score in achievement levels 3, 4, or 5 on the Science FCAT. These points are in addition to points awarded for students meeting high standards on the reading, mathematics and writing FCAT exams and making learning gains in reading and mathematics.

Learning Gains in Mathematics Among the Lowest-Performing Students:

Schools now also earn points for the percent of the lowest 25 percent of students who make learning gains in mathematics. These points are in addition to the points schools already earn for the lowest 25 percent of students who make learning gains in reading. On top of the points earned for learning gains among the lowest 25 percent of students, schools must also demonstrate that at least 50 percent of this group of students has made learning gains in both reading and mathematics. The final grades of schools that do not demonstrate this gain are reduced by one letter grade.

Passing Scores for 11th and 12th Graders Retaking the Grade 10 FCAT Exams:

If at least 50 percent of a school’s 11th and 12th grade students retaking the Grade 10 reading and mathematics FCAT exams receive passing scores, then the school is awarded 10 extra bonus points toward their grade calculation. This year, 161 schools were awarded these bonus points. Out of those 161 schools, 21 increased a letter grade based on the 10 extra points.

If the new components had not been added to this year’s grade calculation, Florida schools would have made significant improvements over the previous year. There would be 134 more “A” schools, 73 more “B” schools, 79 less “C” schools, 64 less “D” schools and 64 less “F” schools (a total of 1,606 “A” schools, 542 “B” schools, 509 “C” schools, 156 “D” schools and 18 “F” schools).

2006 Third-Grade Reading FCAT Results

For this year only, 2006 third-grade FCAT reading results were excluded from the school grade calculation. An equating issue was identified on last year’s third-grade reading FCAT, influencing results. Since part of the school grade calculation is based on learning gains made from the previous year, the State Board of Education voted to remove this element from the 2007 grade calculation. This exclusion only impacts elementary schools and the reading learning gains components of school grades. Instead, reading learning gains for elementary schools were calculated based on data from last year’s fourth-grade reading FCAT and this year’s fifth-grade reading FCAT.

To ensure no school was unfairly disadvantaged, learning gains for school grades were also calculated by including the 2006 third-grade reading FCAT. Grades for elementary schools were calculated using the highest learning gains. A total of 279 elementary schools’ grades were affected by either excluding and/or including the 2006 third-grade reading FCAT scores in the calculation of the learning gains components of school grades.

Adequate Yearly Progress

Florida has increased the number of schools making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the No Child Left Behind Act. In 2007, a total of 3,233 schools were included in Florida's AYP calculation, with 1,061 schools making AYP and 2,172 not making AYP. This progress is an improvement from last year when 916 schools made AYP and 2,282 did not.

This week, the U.S. Department of Education approved Florida to participate in a special pilot program, which enables only seven states to apply what is known as a “growth model” to their AYP calculation. Florida schools and districts now have an additional way to meet AYP through the use of a three-year “growth model” trajectory that takes student learning gains into account. Using a student’s prior year assessment score, a growth trajectory is calculated for each student to determine the level of student growth needed to be proficient within three years. If a student meets the necessary amount of growth, he/she is considered to be on track to be proficient. The “growth model,” along with the “status model” (meeting the annual proficiency benchmarks) and “safe harbor” (10 percent decrease in the percent of students not proficient), supports Florida’s goal of having all students proficient or on track to be proficient within three years.

The inclusion of the “growth model” enabled an additional 157 Florida schools to meet AYP requirements.

School Recognition Program

The Florida School Recognition Program rewards schools that have sustained high student performance or demonstrated substantial improvement in student performance. Schools that receive an "A," or improve at least one performance grade from the previous year, are eligible to earn $100 per student. Recognition funds can be used by a school for non-recurring faculty incentives, educational equipment, new technology or hiring temporary personnel to assist in maintaining and improving student performance. The School Recognition Program has had a positive effect on schools maintaining and improving grades. In 2007, a total of 1,132 schools maintained their "A," 37 new schools earned an "A," 303 schools improved to an "A" and 116 schools improved to a grade other than an "A".

For Florida's struggling schools, the Assistance Plus program provides funding, resources and support to address areas of weakness. Additionally, failing schools receive school improvement facilitators, reading coaches, technical assistance and assessments to monitor student progress.

2007 School Grades

In summary, the 2007 school grades are as follows:

School Grade Number of Schools Receiving Grade Percentage of Schools Receiving Grade
A 1,472 52%
B 469 17%
C 588 21%
D 220 8%
F 82 3%
Total 2,831

Parents will receive a school report card that provides a comprehensive look at their child's school, with results under state and federal standards, as well as information on spending at the school level. For more information, please visit http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org.