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.