The Florida Department of Education has rejected a long-shot request to toss improperly counted test scores thought to have cost Miami Jackson Senior High School its coveted “A” ranking.
The state says dismissing the contested scores of fewer than a dozen immigrant students would not have changed the school’s grade anyway.
Florida’s deputy commissioner of accountability, Juan Copa, notified the Miami-Dade school district last week that the state had denied the district’s school-grade appeal. He said Miami Jackson would remain a “B” school.
The state’s ruling was expected, even though Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said in January that the “English Language Learner” students in question should not have counted toward the calculation of the school’s 2012-13 letter grade because they had not been enrolled in a U.S. school for a full year prior to the start of testing, as state law requires.
School and district testing officials argued that the disputed test scores caused Miami Jackson, which earned enough points to receive an “A,” to miss out on a requirement that at least a quarter of students test at proficient reading levels in order to avoid a one-grade drop.
Losing the “A” was significant both for the pride of a school seeking its third straight “A” after years of failing marks, and for the finances of its faculty, who in two prior years received almost $200,000 in state school recognition bonuses. In arguing for the appeal, Jackson testing chairman Felix Diaz said it would be “inconceivable” not to receive the grade the school earned.
Still, the push to change the school’s grade was believed to be ill-fated from the start due to a requirement that data on matters such as testing status be finalized in March. Copa, for instance, said changing such data after school grades are calculated can diminish the integrity of Florida’s high-stakes accountability system.
But Copa said in his March 5 letter that there was a second reason the appeal was a non-starter.
“If the proposed changes detailed in the appeal were granted and the students were excluded, the school’s reading achievement rate would remain below 25 percent and the grade of ‘B’ would remain unchanged,” he wrote.
Reached Monday, Gisela Feild, Miami-Dade Schools’ director of assessment, research and data analysis, said the district reviewed the state’s data and agreed with its determination, despite the district’s initial conclusion.
The state approved appeals from other South Florida schools.
The Broward school district celebrated after learning Everglades High School, the subject of Broward County’s only school grade appeal, earned its third straight “A” after the Department of Education factored in a substantial number of make-up test scores.
And on Friday, Carvalho was glowing about Homestead Senior High School, which improved to a “B” thanks to the state’s inclusion of college-readiness reading scores from just four additional students. On the other hand, the state declined to change the “B” grade of Miami Coral Park Senior High, which appealed on a similar issue.
Archimedean Upper Conservatory Charter School also remained a “B” school.
Along with appeals, the state also released the grades of several Miami-Dade schools that were cleared by investigations into the possibility of cheating. Some of those schools are Ben Sheppard Elementary, G. Holmes Braddock Senior High and North Miami Senior High, all of which earned an “A.”