Teachers, whose evaluations — and eventually pay — factor in students’ test scores, also stand to be impacted. And for students in third and 10th grades, passing FCAT exams can be the difference between moving on to the next grade or graduating with a standard diploma.
Carvalho, who has been critical of Florida’s school-grading system, said he called Friday’s gathering because he didn’t see that the Florida Department of Education had “sufficiently” tried to explain how school grades and testing are changing this year.
He said he didn’t hear other districts explaining it either.
“I can tell you we’ve spent two-and-a-half hours on this today. That’s about two hours and 28 minutes more than other districts have spent on this,” he said.
In Broward County, Superintendent Robert Runcie said this week that the state changing its formula has become an “annual ritual.” But he said the potential impacts in July, when elementary and middle school grades are released, is not something he has studied in detail.
“No one’s come to me and said, ‘Hey man, this is going to be like a huge problem for us,’ ” Runcie said.
Fletcher, the state’s head of accountability, said schools and districts have known about the coming changes. She said past results show schools and districts quickly rebound and respond with a better performance.
“The next year, schools work really hard and changed expectations result in increased emphasis,” she said. “I’d expect we’ll see a little bit of a drop, and then we’ll see them move forward and do better in later years.”
But Carvalho and his cabinet are equally uneasy about the coming years. They worried Friday about an increase in end-of-course exams creating a “bottleneck” of students struggling to graduate, and changes coming as Florida moves to implement the Common Core state standards.
Florida is one of 47 states moving to create the national curriculum, which means phasing out the FCAT in favor of a new exam.
“We really don’t know what an A, B, C, D or F school will be,” said Gisela Feild, the administrative director for assessment, research and data analysis for Miami-Dade. “We have no idea how those scores will be generated.”
As Florida joins most other states in implementing Common Core, Runcie said there will additional predictions of drops in student scores — both here and around the country.
“Our kids didn’t all of a sudden lose some skill or cognitive ability,” he said. “We just basically changed the bar, and they’ll catch up.”
Miami Herald staff writer Michael Vasquez contributed to this report.