JPEF recommends changing how schools are graded

By Kumasi Aaron - Reporter/The Morning Show anchor , Nick Jones - Producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A local education group believes it's time to change the way schools in Florida are graded.

According to the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, the system is 15 years old. Now the group has made some recommendations on what to change.

The changes it recommends include spreading grade ranges more evenly, and holding schools accountable the same way teachers and principals are held accountable.

The group's main recommendation is to give schools like Smart Pope Livingston Elementary, currently a D school, more credit for rapid academic growth instead of test scores.

Parent Shanita Brown said her daughter's academic growth there has been tremendous.

"She's not reading at the level that another school may be reading at," Brown said. "But with the growth that she's getting and the impact that the school has been putting in the principals, she has been learning."

JPEF says growth should have more of an impact on the grade a school receives from the state. Currently growth is weighed equally with proficiency, or passing state tests.

"A growth measure allows you to get credit, if you will, for the progress you make with a student," said Trey Csar, president of JPEF. "If over a 10-month school year you make 18 months' worth of progress with that kid, you are a rock star, regardless of where they entered."

Csar said it's a change that can make an even bigger impact in schools that serve low-income students, like those at Livingston Elementary. Duval County Superintendent Nikolai Vitti agrees.

"I think growth is a more accurate reflection of the good work that's happening in our schools, rather than proficiency, which oftentimes is more an outcome of socioeconomic background," Vitti said.

In St. Johns County Superintendent Joseph Joyner believes there should be a balance between proficiency and growth, but one should not outweigh the other.

"You have to look at proficiency because you have to have, in my mind, a bar to achieve," Joyner said. "I believe that's the reason proficiency is there."

JPEF says it intentionally did not release a new grading formula; the group is just hoping to start a conversation. Its recommendations are just one set the Florida Department of Education is considering.

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