Published: Aug 06, 2010 6:52 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 06, 2010 3:51 PM EDT

TALLAHASSEE, Fla - Fewer of Florida's elementary and middle schools have received top grades this year.  They are down from a record year in 2009.

The grades came out Friday - more than a month late due to problems scoring the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.  The FCAT is the basis for the grades that are used to reward top schools and correct failing ones.

Education Commissioner Eric Smith rejected a request from school superintendents to further delay the grades until additional
questions about the FCAT scores can be answered.

This year, 74 percent of elementary schools received an A or B - down from 87 percent in 2009.  The percentage of middle schools getting an A or B dropped from 80 to 78.

Memo from Eric Smith regarding school grades:

“The release of School Grades this year provides a very unbiased view of the undeniable success we have achieved in raising the quality of education we provide our children. The results show that through a five year trend, the performance of our schools remains strong in both our elementary and middle grades and that despite the difficult economic times we have faced, we are maintaining the progress we have all worked so hard to achieve. The results also show us that declines in the number of “A” grades compared to last year did occur, highlighting the need to redouble our efforts and rediscover the strategies that have helped us to be so successful.  

“School Grades represent the pinnacle of an assessment and accountability system that has brought great academic progress to the children of Florida. The hard work of our teachers combined with the application of these accountability measures has increased the performance of our schools year after year as they successfully educate more of the students they serve. This success is especially apparent in our student subgroups where minority, low income and special needs students have all made stunning progress in closing the achievement gaps they face.

“This success could only be possible through the embrace of accountability by teachers and school leaders, and I am pleased that their support remains strong in our state. But, as many of our superintendents have pointed out, accountability must be grounded in accurate measures for it to succeed, and it is precisely because of this that I retained the services of two additional independent testing experts to review this year’s results. Those experts concluded their audits earlier this week with a resounding vote of confidence in both our assessment system and the results produced by it.

“School Grades are an important indicator to families across the state who are searching for, and deserve the best educational opportunities for their children and I am pleased that we continue to provide such a quality measure for them to use as they make these important decisions. I also continue to be pleased with the strong involvement and collaboration by our teachers, principals and superintendents who have put this information to such good use. Together, our efforts will continue to raise the bar for our students, providing them with the knowledge and skills they need to achieve success in the pursuit of their dreams.”

To read full results:

http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org/