Fla. educators split on changes to school grading standards

By Mike Vasilinda, Reporter, Capitol News Service
Published On: Mar 24 2014 05:22:21 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

A major overhaul of the way schools are graded generated thousands of calls, emails and text messages to lawmakers over the weekend as educators are split on the changes.

How schools are graded has been controversial since the system began more than a decade ago. This year is no different.

"These calculations will focus more closely on student performance," said Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Jacksonville.

The 130-page bill being considered is needed because the state is switching from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT, to yet another to-be-developed test.

Brevard County teacher Patricia Crutcher, a 25-year classroom veteran, drove five hours on spring break to tell lawmakers the current test is making her kids physically ill.

"Another student got so nauseous that I had to get the nurse to take her out of the room," said Crutcher. "A third student got a nosebleed."

Sandra Butler, a teacher from Panama City, went to say the same thing.

"We're all for accountability, but it needs to be the right accountability," said Butler. "They need to go into the classroom and find out exactly what's going on, not the grades because of a one-day test."

The bottom line: For one year, the schools won't be penalized as Florida switches standardized tests.

RELATED: Florida chooses new test to replace FCAT next year

The one-year pass on penalties is what brought the Florida Parent Teacher Association to speak against the bill.

"We just think it's too fast. It's moving too fast," said Kathy Foulk, of Florida PTA.

But school boards say a year is enough time.

"This would allow us at the local level to establish a baseline next year and not be penalized as the grades go up or down," said Wayne Blanton, of the Florida School Boards Association.

While many of the specifics may change as the bill moves on, the one thing it does that won't change is affirm the state's commitment to keep testing children's progress.

The bill has one more committee stop before being heard by the full House.

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