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School district grades offer governor new data

Unlike FCAT grades, the district scores have no consequences, but some observers are wary.

Associated Press
Published January 2, 2004

TALLAHASSEE - Four of Florida's 67 countywide school districts scored D's and less than a third scored A's, according to a report created to satisfy Gov. Jeb Bush's curiosity.

Thirty percent of the districts scored A's, while 34 percent scored B's and 30 percent scored C's. Eighteen districts improved their grade from the school-year ending in 2002 and just one, Lafayette, dropped a notch, winding up with a C.

The highest ranked districts were in Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties in northwest Florida and Brevard County in east-central Florida, based on point totals used to issue the grades. Points are awarded for students' overall performance, their year-to-year progress and year-to-year progress of the lowest 25 percent of pupils.

Unlike the marks given to individual schools, the grades will have no rewards or consequences for the districts.

The state Department of Education created the report in September at Bush's request. It was first reported this week by the Palm Beach Post.

"The governor likes to look at data, and he asked if he could take a look at the aggregate data, school grades of the districts," Bush spokeswoman Alia Faraj said.

"It's just more information, another tool for him."

Education department spokeswoman Frances Marine called the grades "an academic exercise."

Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida Schools Boards Association, said the local school districts aren't necessarily concerned about such grades being compiled.

"What we would we be concerned about is how it's going to be used in the future," he said. "As long as it's just for improvement and shows how districts are doing things it wouldn't be a problem with us. If there would be any penalty provisions, obviously we'd have a problem."

But others question the survey's validity, with critics saying they can't reconcile the number of "A" districts with national test scores showing more than two-thirds of Florida's fourth-graders and 73 percent of its eighth-graders don't read at a proficient level.

St. Lucie County Superintendent Michael Lannon called the grades meaningless.

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