Kaitlyn Delaney is Chalkboard Project’s summer intern. Currently in an elementary education teacher preparation program at Florida State, she is writing a series of blog posts throughout the summer that focus on school grades.
As a native Floridian, it is common for me to see “Proud to be a ‘B’ school!” or “Congratulations students and teachers! We are an ‘A’ school once again!” displayed boldly across banners at the front of schools. These schools are celebrating their assigned school grades given out by the Florida Department of Education each year. Grades from A to F are based primarily on student scores on our state exam, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). While elementary and middle school scores are based solely on FCAT scores, high school grades consider other factors, such as graduation rates and college preparedness based on the SAT and ACT.
While attending public school, I did not think about school grades very often. I knew that my school was an ‘A’ school and that was the extent of my knowledge of the program. My school did not emphasize the importance of the state exam; rather it focused on instruction based on the Florida standards that guided the exam. Other students were not so lucky. Since the school grades are so dependent on the FCAT, many schools spend months preparing students for the test, and although the test is based on the state standards, I remember dreading completing the tortuously dull FCAT preparation workbooks for even a week.
Another interesting aspect of Florida’s grading system is its relationship to funding. For schools that receive or sustain high marks on the exams, there is additional per-student funding given to the school. With this money, my school was able to support the arts and purchase innovative technology. It was not until I graduated and spoke to peers at my Florida university that I realized how lucky I was. My school had received an ‘A’ since the program’s inception in the late 1990s so we received the additional funding every year. This helped the school provide a more holistic education, but what about the schools that did not receive top marks and did not receive that additional funding? Are those not the schools most in need of additional funding? I am torn because I saw how much it helped my school sustain high performance, but I would love to see additional funding for intervention in low achieving schools.