“The results are evident,” he said. “What I’m concerned about at this point is the fact that, notwithstanding this dramatic increase in student performance, we may still see a significant decrease in school letter performance.”
Carvalho wants the state to review the way it factors some assessment scores into school grades and to bring back a safety net that last year kept grades from dropping more than one letter.
Also at issue: Even as Florida tightens accountability measures, the state is moving to implement new, more rigorous Common Core standards that aren’t measured by the FCATs or end-of-course exams. So the new standards will be measured by all new tests in two years.
“With so much at stake, with letter grades at stake, with implications on teacher evaluations, teacher performance and teacher pay, when we are ushering in a new era of accountability a year from now, why significantly disrupt the system when we do not know what the true impact will be?” Carvalho asked.
Common Core standards are also being phased into classrooms in South Florida, and teachers are being asked to use methods that aren’t assessed by the FCAT. Runcie wants the state to reduce the weight FCAT scores carry in evaluating teachers.
“That needs to be changed, and needs to be changed in a hurry,” he said.
Bennett acknowledged that some districts may go through a rough patch while trying to juggle incoming Common Core standards with the outgoing FCAT materials. But he said the new standards, as well as the state’s decision to raise the bar on accountability measures, are all intended to improve schools and better prepare students for college.
“This data is very important, but we also can’t take our eyes off the ball, that what we are expecting will be a higher level of understanding. We know from experience, and Florida has set this conversation better than anyone, that every time we increase expectations, Floridians respond,” he said. “Everything we’ve done to this point has set our state on the right path to get where we’re going.”