The Tampa Bay Times reports that members of the Hillsborough County School Board used strong language to voice their opposition to the new state requirement that the district grade the academic performance of its schools for disabled students. The board, in a 6-0 vote, passed a resolution expressing strong opposition to the new system.
The new grading system, which drew strong opposition from Superintendent MaryEllen Elia when it was proposed, stems from an agreement between the state and federal departments of education. In exchange for a waiver that helped Florida streamline its testing, the state agreed to change the way it counts the scores of students with disabilities and new English speakers.
In regard to exceptional student education centers, districts could choose letter grades or improvement ratings. If they chose ratings, the scores would count against the students’ neighborhood schools — in many cases, schools they had never attended. With the exception of two schools for children with discipline problems, Hillsborough chose grades. Four schools now face receiving Fs.
However, not everyone opposes grading special-education students. Some parents are pushing for accountability to make sure schools and teachers set high expectations for their children. Nevertheless, Board Member Jack Lamb’s resolution carried the day. “This is an abomination in terms of penalizing students and their parents who are working so hard to provide a quality education to them,” Lamb said.
Board Chairwoman Candy Olson suggested the board might want to devise its own grading system. “It is time for someone who actually knows what is going on in our schools, the people in this room, to come up with a grading system that has some connection to reality,” she said.
Source: Tampa Bay Times, 7/18/12, By Marlene Sokol
[Editor's Note: The federal government waiver referred to in the article is part of an initiative by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to offer relief from the No Child Left Behind Act's (NCLB) requirement that all students be proficient in math and reading by 2014. In February 2012, Legal Clips summarized an article in The Washington Post, which reported that the Obama Administration had granted waivers to ten states, like Florida, from some of the NCLB's toughest requirements, including that schools prepare every student to be proficient in math and reading by 2014 or risk escalating sanctions.
Just as the NCLB waiver caused backlash from the Hillsborough County School Board, in March 2012, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Denver Post, which reported that teachers and parents were questioning whether African Americans were targeted as Denver Public Schools (DPS) sought to trim teachers and staff in its effort to turn around failing schools. As the Editor's Note to that summary makes clear, DPS' actions were taken in order to comply with the conditions of the NCLB waiver granted to Colorado.]