Fewer As, more Ds as Florida releases stringent public school report cards

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Fewer public schools in Palm Beach County are A-rated schools under a more stringent assessment of students, teacher and schools by the Florida Department of Education.

According to the results of school accountability reports released on Tuesday, there are 82 A-rated schools in Palm Beach County.

Fourteen schools are D-rated; there were six a year ago.

Barton Elementary School in Lake Worth was the only school in the county that was F-rated.

"Historically, every time the state has changed the criteria we've seen a decline," said Eric Gross, whose Grove Elementary School in Palm Beach Gardens dropped to being D-rated. "Over the long term, our grades have slowly risen and we've met all the expectations that the State has put on."

CLICK ON THE LINK TO READ:  NO FAILING GRADES FOR THE TREASURE COAST

This year, the Department of Education weighed schools on more rigorous standards and new achievement levels.

For the first time, it included the measurements of students with disabilities and first-year English learners.

"Some people focus on F being a letter grade. Some say it's failure. Some focus on F being FCAT. I focus on F being the future," Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson told NewsChannel 5 in May.

Gross said his students improved their test scores year over year but the gains were not enough for the school to remain C-rated under the new scoring system.

Schools with lower grades are eligible to receive state resources to improve their grades.

Gross said he would use the resources to hire educators to help students excel in mathematics, reading and science.

"We do buy people with our money so that we can get a more, you know, individualized education for our students," he said. "It provides us with a way to give these kids what they may not have at home."

The changes to the school accountability reports were controversial.

"Clearly schools are not responsible for the drop in grades caused by moving the cut scores," said Christine Bramuchi, a co-founder of  FundEducationNow.org , a parent-driven education advocacy group. "The [Board of Education] is determined to keep all sanctions, fines and failure labels in place.  How can we let them use their faulty instruments to sacrifice the future of our children?"

In contrast, Governor Rick Scott said raising the bar worked.

"Florida is raising education standards because we know from past experience that students and teachers consistently rise to occasion when challenged," Scott said in a statement.  "In just two years, Florida will move to a new testing standard that significantly reduces our reliance on the FCAT and moves to Common Core State Standards. This new system will allow us to compare our students with those in other states so that we can benchmark results, measure progress, and adjust curriculum to better prepare students for college and the workforce, so that they are better able to compete in the global marketplace."

The school accountability report can be accessed here: http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org .

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