MILTON, Fla. (AP) - New laws should make it easier for parents to see how their children's schools and districts are doing compared to others in Florida, experts told the state Board of Education on Tuesday.
Bills recently signed by Gov. Rick Scott change the way schools and districts are graded. Florida is also overhauling standardized tests given to students in various grades.
"The goal is to make it easier to understand. There will be a clear connection between the school grading formula and improving student outcomes," Juan Copa, deputy education commissioner, told the Florida Board of Education during a routine meeting held in the western Panhandle town of Milton.
Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature made numerous changes to the state's public school evaluation system in the last session. The state's new standardized tests will align with the education standards known as the Common Core. The new grading formula is designed to be simpler and schools won't be penalized for any negative results the first year the new test is taken.
Other changes include a law to protect student privacy by requiring districts to use education numbers instead of Social Security numbers and a measure to give parents more opportunity to object to textbooks selected for use in their children's school.
Despite the changes, some legislators remain unhappy with the state's efforts to meet the suggested guidelines.
The federal Common Core State Standards are a result of an initiative sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Common Core Standards have been adopted in 45 states and Washington, D.C.
Opponents see them as the nationalization of education policy and standards, something they say should be left to the states. Supporters contend that having a shared set of standards will allow for a more accurate state-by-state comparison of student performance.
Although the education-reform bills were signed into law this year, school districts will not receive any penalties or consequences of the new grading system until the 2015-2016 school year. Test scores from the 2014-2015 school will be used only as a baseline for future years. The 2014-2015 school year will be a transitional year to the new testing system, Copa said.
Once the new system is implemented, individual schools and school districts will receive an annual A-F grade. The new grading system is designed to be easier to understand than the current grading system. It eliminates a complicated bonus point system that had weighted the scores of some schools and it grades schools in a straightforward way based on the percentage of possible points earned, Copa said.
In the coming months, the state board will review the content of the new tests and the schedules for testing.
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