House lawmakers get an eye-opener: Nearly half of FL schools are average to struggling

Florida Department of Education

In a meeting room in the Capitol, a big screen on the wall revealed some data that surprised newly-elected state representative Ardian Zika.

The Republican House member representing part of Pasco County looked at the numbers and saw that 43 percent of public schools in Florida got C, D or F grades in 2018 under Florida’s system for judging schools. That’s close to half the schools in the state.

“Wow,” Zika said.

Zika was one of several colleagues sitting at the table Tuesday for an overview of Florida’s K-12 education system. House members, both newly-elected and veterans, are in town for orientation sessions heading into the spring 2019 legislative session.

The orientation sessions cover myriad issues, from the state budget, K-12 and higher education, health, and water quality, to understanding legislative rules and drafting legislation.

The K-12 education session reviewed how A through F grades for schools are determined, based on a review of several components, such as scores on statewide tests. That leads to the school grading scale and point system.  For example, 62 percent of points or more equals an “A” school.

Florida’s grading system has been controversial in the past, though it was designed as an easy way to let families and the public know how schools are doing.  Questions remain about whether the calculations may make public schools look better than they are, state data show, among other concerns.

The numbers listed at the orientation Tuesday showed that 1,407 schools got Cs, Ds and Fs – 43 percent overall — out of 3,304 schools graded for 2018. In all, 1,038 schools got As and 859 got Bs.

Another lawmaker at the meeting, Democrat Geraldine F. “Geri” Thompson, raised questions about whether schools are teaching African American history and the history of the Holocaust.

That instruction is required by law, but in some cases,  “It has really not been done,” said Thompson, who represents part of Orange County.

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.


  1. The Florida public school plan to privatize is working? Less spending on public education for 20 years based on state legislation. It must be working. Attack teacher unions that have a constitutional right to bargain in the state with loopholes to prevent bargaining for basic needs, like class size amendment law being wittled away by the legislation, not the people. Working. Look what our false education Governor left us as he heads out to destroy national education. Working. Sadly, what the 51% of Floridians wanted, they voted for less public education support and less public education means less educated voters. You get what you vote for, Florida. You want equal education for all? Not in this state. Working.

  2. This is typical of the education legislators, not knowing the damage they have created for the future of our state. They claim they have less tests, but that is false. Go to every district in the state and find out how many days there are disruptions in the 180 days there is actual class time to learn. There was less than a month before the testing games started this year. Plus, with more mandates, we have more than pnce a month disruptions for assailant training and emergency drills. Again, sad that the columnist is not reporting the schools that are struggling based on the lack of funding and training provided by the state to improve the communities surrounding the schools with medical, housing, and job supports. If we helped the families in the community with basic needs, the education of their children would go smoother, too. Why are you clumping C with Ds and Fs. Students only need a C to graduate and basically a D on the FSA to pass. How many legislators are judged and elected by the grades they earned in school. Heck, one education committee member lied about getting a college degree and she did not lose her job (ethically falsified job applicants should be fired)!

  3. By definition, half of any group of numbers is at or below average… that is the definition of average.

    That said, the A-F grading system is expressly designed to label public schools as failing. Why? So parents will choose to leave them. Ask Erik Fresen, he explained this at the Excelined Summit several years ago. It is a flawed system and I hope someone is teaching the lawmakers that.

  4. This Is a total disgrace! Why is the education of Floridas children. Such an important factor in TALLAHASSEE? Do you enjoy being known across this country as a state with the second to last illiterate children ? Are children irrelevant to the wealthy law makers ? Yes you can send your children to the best schools but it should not be acceptable to show the rest of the country how insignificant the rest of the children are to you! Shame isn’t even approperate for what you have NOT accomplished in sufficient education levels. We are now known as the state with low education, contaminated water, and poluted air. Wow. Welcome to Florida if you are an idiot should be the new tourist logo!


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