Implementation of Florida’s System of School Improvement and Accountability  

    6AER07-1: Implementation of Florida’s System of School Improvement and Accountability
    SPECIFIC REASONS FOR FINDING AN IMMEDIATE DANGER TO THE PUBLIC HEALTH, SAFETY OR WELFARE: School Grades as defined in Section 1008.34, F.S. are based upon combinations of factors, including annual learning gains as measured by the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) in reading and mathematics for the third through the tenth grades. In order to accurately determine a school’s annual learning gains, the scoring of the FCAT tests must be accurately equated from one year to the next for each grade and each type of test. However, analyses by the Department of Education, external test experts, and vendors under contract with the Department reveal that the third grade reading portion of the FCAT for the 2006 year was not correctly equated. As a result, the test results for 2006 third grade reading were, in this case, significantly inflated.
    The anomaly in the 2006 third grade reading scores was not discovered until after an analysis of the 2007 scores was completed. This information was not available until May 21, 2007. Further, it was not until May 31, 2007, that it was learned that the anomaly could not be corrected by means of rescoring using a valid statistical approach. It is critical that school grades be released as soon as possible after the close of one school year to allow school districts time to prepare for the next school year. The release of these scores has been in early June since 2002. Because of the anomaly, the 2006 third grade FCAT results cannot be used in the calculation of the 2007 school grades as provided for in Rule 6A-1.09981, F.A.C. Specifically, the portion of a school’s performance grade based upon annual learning gains, as well as that portion of a school’s performance grade based upon the lowest twenty-five percent, must exclude the 2006 third grade reading scores for Florida’s public elementary schools. Given the timing of the discovery and the need to release school grades, there is not sufficient time to amend the rule by the non-emergency rulemaking procedures. Moreover, since Florida school districts must prepare for 2007-2008 between July 1, and August 21, (when the 2007-08 school year starts), school grades must be released well in advance. Preparations to be taken by school districts as a result of school grades include: contracting for services to poor performing schools; closing repeat, poor performing schools; shifting staff, students, and faculty; allocating special service resources from state and federal funds; and in some cases, reallocating dollars appropriated through the Florida Education Finance Program.
    The assessment of student, school, school district performance and Florida’s pubic school system is heavily dependant upon accurate student achievement data from the FCAT. An inaccurate school grade can deprive a school of performance-based funding under Section 1008.36. Further, the anomaly impairs the ability to identify schools which have not performed well and which have not made sufficient progress in assisting their students achieve proficiency. This ability is, in part, dependant upon the targeting of limited resources to those schools who truly need additional services as evidenced by their school grade. School grades are also one component of Florida’s plan approved by the United States Department of Education under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Schools with low school grades will not meet the progress makers established through the NCLB Act, which will impact available federal funding. As a consequence of this, students in need of services, such as tutoring and additional assistance, will not receive such services. Students in low performing schools are overwhelmingly children from low income families (as evidenced by their receipt of Free and Reduced Lunch assistance from the federal government). They are also schools largely comprised of minority children, children with disabilities and students with limited English speaking backgrounds. A major focus of the NCLB program and the A+ program is to close educational performance gaps for these children. Without this emergency rule change, the ability of the state and school districts to assist these children in closing educational performance gaps will be seriously hampered.
    REASON FOR CONCLUDING THAT THE PROCEDURE IS FAIR UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES: The issue with regard to the third grade reading scores, as well as the need to adopt an emergency rule was discussed at a duly noticed State Board meeting, held on June 18, 2007. Further, the matter has been discussed and debated at numerous other publicly-noticed meetings. On May 31, 2007, an FCAT technical advisory committee discussed and debated the issues in Orlando, Florida. The committee is comprised of school district assessment coordinators, vendors and their psychometricians as well as material reviewers. On June 1, 2007, a committee constituted by the Education Commission met to air the issue. This committee included assessment coordinators, representatives of the teachers union, the state school district association and an assessment reform group. This latter committee met again in Tampa on June 13th. These meetings were well publicized and attended by the press and citizens. The Department has welcomed the input of all concerned in dealing with the situation.
    SUMMARY: The emergency rule excludes the 2006 third grade FCAT reading scores from school performance grades, unless the school demonstrates gains with the inclusion of those scores.
    THE PERSON TO BE CONTACTED REGARDING THE EMERGENCY RULE IS: Jay J. Pfeiffer, Deputy Commissioner, Division of Accountability, Research, and Measurement, 325 West Gaines Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0400


    6AER07-1 (6A-1.09981) Implementation of Florida’s System of School Improvement and Accountability.

    (1) Policy Guidance. Accountability for student learning is the key focus of Florida's system of school improvement. Results from the statewide assessment program required by Section 1008.34, Florida Statutes, shall form the basis of Florida's system of school improvement and accountability. Student achievement data from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) in grades 3-10 shall be used to establish both proficiency levels and annual progress for individual students, schools, districts, and the state. Results shall further be used as the primary criteria in calculating school performance grades as specified in subsection (5) of this rule, school rewards and recognition, and performance-based funding and shall be annually reported. The statewide assessment program shall be used to measure the annual learning gains of each student toward achievement of the Sunshine State Standards appropriate for the student's grade level and to inform parents of the educational progress of their public school children as specified by Section 1008.34(1), Florida Statutes.

    (a) Full Implementation of Accountability System in School Year 2001-2002 and thereafter. Beginning in school year 2001-2002, the school accountability system will be considered to be fully implemented with the following accountability elements.

    1. Designation of school performance grades shall be based on a combination of:

    a. Student achievement scores, based on FCAT reading and mathematics assessments in grades 3-10 and FCAT writing assessments in grades 4, 8, and 10;

    b. Annual student learning gains as measured by FCAT reading and mathematics assessments in grades three (3) through ten (10); however, in the 2006-2007 School Year, learning gains from grade three (3) to four (4) as measured by FCAT reading, will not be used to calculate a school grade unless schools demonstrate higher learning gains from grade three (3) to four (4) based on the inclusion of the 2006 third grade FCAT reading scores; and

    c. Improvement of the FCAT reading scores of students in the lowest twenty-five (25) percent of each grade, aggregated for each school, unless they are performing above satisfactory, defined as FCAT Achievement Levels 4 and 5; however, in the 2006-2007 School Year, learning gains from grade three (3) to four (4) as measured by FCAT reading, will not be used to calculate a school grade unless schools demonstrate higher learning gains from grade three (3) to four (4) based on the inclusion of the 2006 third grade FCAT reading scores.

    2. through 8. No change.

    (b) No change.

    (2) through (15) No change.

    Specific Authority 1001.02, 1008.22, 1008.33, 1008.345 FS. Law Implemented 1000.03, 1001.42, 1003.63, 1008.33, 1008.34, 1008.345, 1008.36 FS. History–New 10-11-93, Amended 12-19-95, 3-3-97, 1-24-99, 2-2-00, 2-11-02, 12-23-03, 5-15-06, 6-28-07.

    EFFECTIVE DATE: June 28, 2007