Local News

Superintendent Cox to serve on state grade task force

SEBRING - Highlands County Superintendent of Schools Wally Cox will be on an advisory task force that will review the factors involved in determining school grades this year. Florida Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett announced the membership of the advisory task force recently, which includes five superintendents and six education leaders including himself. Florida Board of Education Chair Gary Chartrand requested the task force last week to review the numerous changes affecting the way school accountability grades will be calculated this year. The advisory task force's first meeting has been scheduled for Monday in Tallahassee, according to the Florida Department of Education.
Cox's administrative secretary Pat Kules said Tuesday that she had just learned about Cox's appointment to the task force. The superintendent was already scheduled to attend a conference in Orlando, but his schedule was changed so he can be in Tallahassee on Monday, Kules said Wednesday. Advisory task force members will review FCAT 2.0 and EOC (end-of-course) assessment results, as well as other factors to make sure the accountability system is designed in the best interest of Florida's students. Changes that affect this year's school grades include new achievement levels for FCAT 2.0 Science and End-of-Course assessments in Biology 1 and Geometry, raising the writing standard used in school grades up to 3.5 from 3.0 last year, expiration of the provision that school grades not drop more than one letter grade, requiring that schools must show that the lowest-performing students are making progress in both reading and math and including test performance and learning gains of students who attend alternative schools. At the June 18 State Board of Education meeting in Tampa, Hillsborough County Superintendent Mary Ellen Elia said her district expects to see 10 times more elementary schools get F grades this year because of the state's tougher grading formula. More low scores means more failing schools and more failing schools mean school districts may have more state-led interventions, such as the five schools in Pinellas and two in Hillsborough, where poor performance led to an overhauling of the faculty and, in some cases, replacing principals. In a prepared statement, Bennett said, "I look forward to working with superintendents and other task force members as we continue the important job of holding schools accountable and maintaining high expectations for teachers and students." Along with Cox, the other superintendents on the task force are: Alberto Carvalho of Miami-Dade County, Mary Ellen Elia of Hillsborough County, Malcolm Thomas of Escambia County and Margaret Smith of Volusia County. Along with Bennett, the other education leaders on the task force are: FDOE Deputy Chief of Staff Will Krebs, Education Coordinator, Governor's Office Kim McDougal, Director, Data and Policy, Jacksonville Public Education Fund Jason Rose and FDOE Chief of Staff Dale Chu. mvalero@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5826 The Tampa Tribune contributed to this report.