A recently released report by the Florida Council of 100 paints a grim picture of preparing teens for life after high school.
Using three years of pre-pandemic data, the report, titled Deviation from rigor, indicates that students’ grades in major Algebra I and second-year language arts courses are much better than their performance on end-of-year exams in those subjects.
The report, released in September, concludes that many teachers are being too lenient in their grades and says this hurts students in the long run. The Florida Council of 100 is a group of statewide nonprofit business leaders focused on economic growth.
For the report, the researchers found that 72% of students who failed the state English test scored a grade of C or higher in their class, while 55% of those who did not. passed the state algebra assessment received a C or higher in class.
“If many students get higher course marks on their performance on the corresponding end-of-course exam (end-of-course exam), this could be evidence that some teachers and administrative officials are not keeping the standards. students hold the standards, making them less prepared for success at the post-secondary level or in the workplace, ”the authors wrote.
The report did not include data for individual districts or schools.
National Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran underlined these findings as a basis for encouraging schools to push students harder to achieve high expectations.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has likely exacerbated the gaps in student achievement, so it is imperative that all students – especially low-income students, students with special needs, English learners and students other struggling students – receive support and honest learning feedback to achieve their individualized educational dreams, ”Corcoran said after the report was released.
University leaders in Tampa Bay area school districts were less impressed with the document. They said it offered little new perspective on a well-known concern.
“This clearly shows that things are more or less obvious and part of the continuing narrative when it comes to grades and results,” said Lea Mitchell, director of the Pasco County Leadership and Learning Department. “It sums up a subject but does not offer the ‘now what’. “
Kevin Hendrick, associate superintendent of teaching and learning for Pinellas County, said this conversation goes back decades and schools have been following the problem and working on solutions. And that means more than just preparing students for the tests, he said.
Pinellas Schools have started working to better identify students who have the potential to benefit from Advanced Placement and other crash courses, Hendrick noted as an example. They also help teens gain industry certifications and other workforce skills, among other approaches targeting their preparation for life after graduation.
Hendrick said the district had taken a closer look at the “more seminal work” of the Myth of opportunity study by TNTP, the national education organization formerly known as The New Teacher Project. The group visited five different school districts, observed hundreds of classes, reviewed thousands of homework assignments and work samples, and interviewed students.
Among his findings: “Students spent more than 500 hours per school year on homework that was not appropriate for their level and with teaching that did not require enough of them – the equivalent of six months of wasted class time. in each major. “
The Pasco District adopted the recommendations in this document as a guide a year ago.
It requires solid teaching, high expectations, grade level homework, and meaningful and relevant work.
“These are four things that we think are actions that close the gap in austerity that exists everywhere,” Mitchell said.
At the same time, she noted, the company is not quickly embracing changes that could speed improvements. Attempts to revise scoring models away from AF scores towards something more detailed and explanatory, with additional opportunities to demonstrate knowledge, are routinely rejected by adults who prefer the simpler letter system, for example.
Sometimes parents understand and say they want their children to master the material, but children are more determined to get the grades that allow them to participate in other activities. Perhaps the colleges they wish to attend do not recognize the ranking changes proposed by the schools.
Many schools further allow students to “behave in a way that achieves a good grade,” a practice that can lead to access and equity issues for children who cannot afford what they could. request. And it doesn’t reflect what they know either, Mitchell said.
All of these factors, and more, must be considered when working to overcome the mismatch between course completion and course outcomes, Mitchell suggested.
The Council of 100 report could help identify where some of these things are going, especially in Florida, she and Hendrick agreed. But for them, it didn’t do much else.
“It’s not unnecessary,” Mitchell said. “It’s just obvious.”