Jeff Eakins, Superintendent in Hillsborough County warns parents that the meaning of school grades is not only different, it is inaccurate. The school grade formula is new this year. The test on which the grades are based is also new.
This is not the real problem with this year’s grades.
We posted the proposed system for school grades that relies on the percentage of students meeting proficiency level 3 plus the percentages of students achieving a gain score representing a year’s academic improvement for all students and those making gains in the lowest scoring group. This year, there are no gain scores–the test is new. There are no FSA scores from the prior year, so gains in test scores cannot be calculated.
Commissioner Stewart will release the school grades in February without the gain scores. She says the simulation run for school grade results is not that different from prior years. If so, why have gain scores at all? The gain scores, known as the Value Added Model (VAM) are likely to get even more complicated in future years.
The legislature has a new bill that would allow national tests to replace the FSA if a district chose to do so. Gain scores on those tests will become a problem. Not only will there be no gain the first year these alternative tests will be used, there might be an incentive to ‘game the gain’. The scores on one test e.g. the ACT Aspire, would have to be equated to the FSA scores. Then, the percentage of students who gained on each test from one year to the next would have to be calculated. Would higher scores be easier to obtain on one versus the other test? Would the improvement in skills be similar on both tests?
The validity of the FSA has been seriously questioned by district superintendents. Imagine how they will shake their heads when the next school grades have to be calculated!