Annual grades fall sharply for central Florida schools

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. —

The Department of Education on Friday released new A-to-F grades for many of the state's public schools.

According to the release, there were more D- and F-rated schools statewide and in central Florida compared to the previous school year.

This year, Orange County has 18 D schools and three F schools, which is up from 14 D schools and one F school last year.


GRADES: Click here to see how your school did


The state raised the bar on the FCAT writing scores, which could have contributed to the fall in grades for Orange County.

The school district gave the analogy that it is similar to the three-point line in basketball getting moved farther and farther back.

But things could have been even worse this year. The State Board of Education decided to only allow schools to fall one letter grade, which means Orange County could have seen even more D and F schools.

Orange County School Board chair Bill Sublette said the state needs to give the school district time to repeat a standard for a reasonable amount of time.

"We are in our third measurement of what it takes to be an A/B school in the last five years alone," Sublette said.

Soon, the state's measurement process will change again and school districts will be evaluated by national standards called Common Core, which will focus on fewer but deeper standards.

Common Core, officials said, will revolve around more nonfiction reading, more writing, evidence to evidence, responses to questions and more critical thinking.

Children in schools with Fs or repeat Ds will be able to earn opportunity scholarships that will allow them to go to schools with higher grades.

And Channel 9 learned students in six Orange County schools will qualify for the scholarships.

But in spite of how the grades look, Orange County's test scores did rise this year.

If the state had used the same passing score as last year, there only would be three schools with Ds and one with an F.

The decision to change the grading standards was done over the protest of some officials who said the move would confuse parents and mask the true performance of many schools.

"We are not making any excuses for any of our D or F schools. We will do this year what we've done in the previous years. We will bring in the principal of each D and F school and ask them for a plan, and the board will spend time studying their plan to move themselves off" of the failing list, said Sublette.

Sublette said over the last three years, schools that have received a low grade have consistently moved themselves off that list over the next year.