When you combine a flawed metric with high stakes reward and/or punishment, you get Accountabaloney. Florida’s education policy is full of it…
This week, in an interesting article written by Amanda Curcio, the Tallahassee Democrat documented a perfect case study in Accountabaloney. By placing all their students into Advanced Placement U.S. History classes, rather than routine or honors U.S. History classes, it appears that Leon County’s Godby High School was able to raise their calculated school grade and benefit from increased funding, even though 97% of their students failed the corresponding Advanced Placement test. This blog is not an attempt to vilify Godby but rather an opportunity to demonstrate that policies, like Florida’s A-F School Grade system, are flawed and continue to corrupt our public education system, creating this baloney.
According to the national 2015 PDK/Gallup poll of the public’s attitude toward the public schools, here are the most important factors families consider when choosing their children’s school (the top 6, in order, are: quality of teaching staff, curriculum, student discipline, class size, variety of extracurricular activities, and reputation of school).
Here is how Florida calculates a high school’s A-F school grade (School Accountability presentation here):
Do you notice any differences? The State calculates school grades almost entirely based on standardized test scores. Parents choose schools based on almost everything BUT standardized test scores. So, if A-F School Grades do not assist parents in choosing schools based on the public’s priorities, what good are they? In Florida, A-F grades can significantly impact a school’s funding. This impact on funding encourages schools to embrace the Accountabaloney.
What happened at Godby?
- “Florida adopted an AP incentive program that offers schools bonuses of $700 per student who passes an AP exam. Teachers receive $50 for every passing student score, capped at $2,000, and $500 for the first passing score in a “D” or “F” school. The state also pays the College Board for testing fees — $87 each, or $53 for low-income students.”
- “And under the proposed grade rule, schools are not penalized when students “fail” — a “1” or “2” score — AP exams.”
- In Florida’s A-F grading system, schools are now given extra points for student participation in AP courses, encouraging more liberal enrollment in these courses, whether a student is qualified for the course or not.
- Beginning in 2014-2105, performance on the state’s U.S. History EOC (End of Course) exam was calculated into the A-F formula (as “Social Studies Achievement”).
- The U.S. History EOC is a graduation requirement, EXCEPT for those that take the U.S. History AP exam. At Godby, it appears a select group of students may have been “chosen” to take the state EOC. In 2015, only 26 Godby students participated in the U.S. History EOC (91% were “proficient”) compare to 250 students in 2014.
- PASSING the U.S. History AP exam is NOT required for graduation, which was “lucky” for Godby because 97% of their students received a “1” or “2” on the AP test (A “3” is considered “qualified” to earn college credit).
How does Godby benefit? “Boosted by the 91 percent in social studies, Godby would jump from a “C” to a “B” under the proposed school grades set by DOE. This improvement could grant the high school as much as $126,700 in school recognition dollars — given to “A” schools and the schools that improve at least one letter grade.” This is, of course, in addition to the $700 per AP passing score and the financial incentives to the individual students.
While Godby financially benefits, what is the impact on the students? What is the impact of enrolling possibly underprepared students into college level AP courses? Is it possible to maintain the same challenging level of curriculum if 72% of the class are struggling readers? Will the high achieving students get the same high level, college-like experience, expected in an AP course, in overcrowded classes containing unprepared classmates?
“A representative of the College Board” (which, by the way, writes the exams and financially benefits every time a student takes one) claimed “taking an AP exam, even for students who score a “1” or “2,” increases the expected on-time college graduation rate for students when compared to academically matched peers who did not take an AP exam.” I would love to see those studies. I wonder if they included students who were randomly placed in AP classes, from schools with a 28% reading proficiency level? What is the impact on the self-esteem and confidence of teenagers asked to sit for exams that 97% of them will fail? Would they have been better served in a “regular” U.S. History course? Were they placed in the AP course for its rigor or to avoid the state EOC?
To be sure, Godby is not alone in this scheme. As school began in August, parents across Florida found their children enrolled in AP courses they had not signed up for. Students found themselves in overcrowded AP courses with unprepared classmates. The dramatic changes in AP enrollment policies can only be attributed to new state education policies.
One Manatee County parent, in response to the Godby article posted on Facebook, expressed her frustration. “I am furious. This directly affects my kid right now. He has 40 kids in his class, his textbook is 17 years old, and the majority of the kids did not sign up for the class, they were just thrown in there. The class has zero rigor and my son never has any homework ever. I am horrified and angry and have been to admin about it many times… I took that same class in high school. I wrote a critical essay a week, read volume after volume of history books, did exhaustive research. Last week, for the first homework he had in weeks, my kid drew a cartoon with 6 squares depicting the entire revolutionary war.”
Perhaps there are benefits to students who participate in AP courses without passing the exam, but the dramatic shift of all of Godby’s U.S. History students into Advanced Placement, along the significantly increased enrollment into AP classes statewide, appear to be consequences of Florida’s School Grading system, in other words: Accountabaloney.
One thing is certain, when school funding depends on jumping through A-F grading scale “hoops”, you can count on schools focusing a significant amount of time and effort practicing “hoop jumping”.
Florida’s entire A-F school grading system has corrupted our public school system. Rather than focus on education best practices, administrators and districts contrive ways to score more points on the latest A-F grading scale, which may or may not lead to improved educational outcomes. In this situation, Godby got caught, but ALL of Florida’s schools have changed the way they educate students in pursuit of the all important letter grade. Parents know this, teachers know this, students suffer due to this… the system is full of Baloney.