State high school grades misleading?

CREATED Dec. 18, 2013

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LEE COUNTY, Fla. - The grades are in for your kids' high schools.

Some are getting props while others show they need some work. 

In Charlotte County, every single high school got an ‘A’ grade. 

In Collier County, seven schools got an ‘A,’ one got a 'B' and one, Everglades City, got a ‘D.’

In Lee County, eight schools got an ‘A,’ four got a ‘B’ and one, East Lee County High School, got a ‘D.’ 

Lee County's superintendent says there's one problem; the grades are misleading.

Dr. Nancy Graham says the school district is really feeling the effects of that this year. 

“When we saw the data, we were like ‘Really?” said Dr. Graham, talking about seeing the East Lee County High School grade for the first time. It’s the only one in the district with a “D.”

“It was a ‘D’ last year, so on the face of it, it looks like nothing's changed,’ she said. “That's just not the case.”

Dr. Graham says this is a classic case of what's so wrong with the Florida Department of Education’s grading system.

“To me, East Lee County just verifies what I've said all along,” she said. “The grade can be very, very misleading… They missed a ‘C’ by one point.”

Dr. Graham says the high school has improved in every area but one and that number has stayed the same.  

The real test of success, she says, is the information behind those grades.

“I know how hard they work and I know what their gains are I'm going to continue to talk gains rather than grades.”

That satisfaction is spread around.

“I’m proud of our high schools, I really am,” said Dr. Graham.

Two Lee County schools dropped a grade.

Those were South Fort Myers and Riverdale.

However, outside factors can automatically disqualify them for an 'A' even if their performance suggests otherwise.

As for parents using this system to choose their child's school?  

“I hope they'll use anything other than school grades, I really do,” said Dr. Graham. 

“What do we need to do at a state level to paint a more accurate picture?” asked reporter Kelli Stegeman.

Dr. Graham laughed. 

“The accountability system needs to be overhauled,” she said. “The Superintendent’s Association have said that, the school boards have said that and the Department of Education is looking at it.” 

For the most part, the grades are a positive snapshot. 

However, the district says it's possible some points were missed when it comes to East Lee County and if there are any more points to gain, they will fight for every one.  

“If we find data to suggest that the state needs to revisit East Lee County we would absolutely go through that process,” said Dr. Graham. 

The district has until January 22nd to file an appeal on the grades. 

This year saw a record number of ‘A’ and ‘B’ schools, even with a more rigorous grading process. 

Because of the success, the process will become even tougher next year to set the bar even higher.

To see the full report CLICK HERE.