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School improvements not reflected in grade

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Updated: 7/26/2013 10:36 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Schools throughout Florida miss the mark this year when it comes to academic excellence. The Department of Education released the grades for each county today.

When it comes to an overall district grade, Duval County received a "C" the same grade as last year. However, I found out schools saw improvements, but new changes in the way tests are graded didn't quite reflect that kind of outcome.

A "C" isn't exactly something to be proud of, and neither is a more than 260 percent increase in "F" schools statewide.
"School grades should always reflect whether children are learning at grade level or above, and that's not happening any longer with school grades because of all the changes," said Duval County Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti. Those changes directly affect the way the FCAT is graded.

Last year, the proficiency standard for writing was at a 3.0, but this year the state changed it to a 3.5. "When you compare 3.0 to 3.5 our students declined as far as the percent of grade level, and that was an average of 25 points per school so that's why school grades declined," said Vitti.

Because of that change, the state granted a safety net called the Hold Harmless clause, meaning no matter how many points a school lost they wouldn't drop more than one letter grade.

Still, Duval County saw a decrease in "A" schools and a spike in "C" and "D" schools. 11 elementary and middles schools received an "F".

Those kind of grades don't sit we'll with parents. "I can't imagine what the "C, D and F" schools look like if the "A" is what I've seen," said local parent, Shelly Amirault.

"It seems like the teachers are driven to only teach to testing and not to some of the other skill levels so I think the focus needs to be shifted," said local parent Laura Diettrich.

Vitti tells Action News those failing schools with receive extra attention going into next year. Vitti is planning his budget which will be presented on Monday. He says they expect better results next year as they focus on team building amongst the administration and the students.
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