FCAT Is 1 Thing, AYP Is Another; Even Schools Meeting State Standards Struggle with Federal Guidelines

Article excerpt

Byline: TIA MITCHELL

School grades might get the bulk of attention each summer. But there is another equally important system for evaluating the effectiveness of Florida schools.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act measures adequate yearly progress, or AYP, for every public school. And although the state and federal grading systems largely depend on student performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, the results couldn't be more different.

Sixty-nine percent of Florida public schools earned an A or B this year in statewide grades issued last month. Yet only one-third achieved AYP.

Stanton College Preparatory, considered one of the best high schools in the nation, received an A grade from the state but fell short of the federal standard.

The difference is how the FCAT scores are used.

Florida's grading system uses overall FCAT results to evaluate school performance. The federal system examines the performance of various subsets of students within a school.

Frank Herrington, Duval County's director of Title I programs, explains it this way: "The state is using a telescope; they're looking at the overall performance of a school. And the feds are using a microscope; they're looking at each different subgroup at a school."

Although every school is evaluated under the federal system, only those receiving federal Title I funds for economically disadvantaged students are subject to sanctions for failing to meet AYP two or more consecutive years.

These sanctions include allowing students to transfer to higher performing schools, offering free tutoring services and restructuring schools.

Duval County has the largest number of Title I schools in Northeast Florida at 63, or nearly 40 percent of the district. All but six of these schools are facing sanctions.

Clay County has seven Title I schools out of 36. Two are facing sanctions.

St. Johns County has five, all under sanctions.

Four Duval County schools - Matthew Gilbert and Eugene Butler middle, Lola Culver and Rutledge Pearson elementaries - will be restructured this year because of their failure to meet AYP.

The district plans to hire a veteran educator as a consultant to handle many of the principals' duties, including making personnel decisions.

In Florida, parents and students are much more familiar with school grades than with the federal grading system. …

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