Some worry about new school grading formula

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The number of Florida schools earning A grades is up, and that's not a bad thing. But some are worried that things will be much different next year.

This year, 195 more elementary and middle schools earned A grades, up 7 percent from last year.

"We're very pleased by the hard work of teachers and administrators throughout the state of Florida," said Wayne Blanton, of the Florida School Board Association. "In fact, it's up more than we anticipated."

It's a good sign in the last year of the current grading formula. New Florida standards and a new state assessment test will replace the FCAT. The association expects the grades to look much different next year because of the changes.

"The grades will be all over the place next year, and we're still not sure what the final result of that will be," Blanton said. "We're just going to have to wait and see. But I'm confident that we will be in good shape."

Even if the grades are turned completely upside down next year, schools will get a one-year grace period to implement the new standards.

Schools are rewarded or penalized based on their grade. Sen. Bill Montford, who also represents the state's superintendents, said he hopes the one-year grace period is enough.

"This fall we will get it ready, we will be ready to go, and then the truth will come out next spring when we take the exams," Montford said. "Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope it all works out. If not, lets hope that we slow down and pause, and lets get it right."

Along with good news in the final year of grading, there was bad. F grades were up, with 7 percent of schools receiving the low letter.

State Democrats wanted a longer grace period, as many as three years, to implement the new standards. That measure was shot down, but Montford said it could be revisited if one year proves to not be long enough for schools.

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