Commissioner Stewart’s plan to simplify Florida’s school grading system will dramatically change the way Advanced Placement courses are figured in to the grades by giving schools credit only for having students take AP courses, but not for students passing the AP exams or taking multiple AP courses. The proposal is consistent with the Commissioner’s stated policy of focusing on “struggling students” in the lowest quartile.
Under both the present grading system and the proposed system, schools receive credit for the number of students taking AP courses or other courses that can yield college credit or industry certifications.
However, the proposed system drops two other components in the present grading system. One of these components is success on the AP examinations, so that under the present system a school receives more credit for a student who takes an AP course and passes the exam than for a student who takes the course and does not pass the exam. The proposed grading scheme awards a school the same credit for a student who passes an AP exam as for one who does not.
The other component dropped under the Commissioner’s plan is credit for students who take multiple courses. Under the present plan, a school receives bonus points for each AP course a student takes, so that a student who takes two or more AP courses brings the school more credit than a student who is enrolled in a single AP course. Under the proposed scheme, a student taking five AP courses will give the school the same amount of credit as a student who takes only one.
Many of Florida’s top quartile students take multiple AP courses in their junior and senior years.
Several of the state’s district school superintendents have expressed concern about the proposed changes to the AP component of the school grades, reports the Tampa Bay Times.
There might be a bit of good news for Florida’s best and brightest in the Commissioner’s proposal. The proposal would drop a component from the middle school grading prescription that gives these schools credit for having students pass end-of-course exams for high school courses such as Algebra, Geometry and Biology. In Leon County, the best 8th-graders are routinely steered away from physical science to take the high school biology course and the accompanying end-of-course exam, resulting in a loss of the opportunity to learn foundational concepts like forces, motion and energy. The plan proposed by Commissioner Stewart would remove the incentive that at least partly drives this curricular decision. However, the change would also reduce the incentive to encourage middle school students to take Algebra 1 and Geometry, which are the first mathematical steps in the science and engineering pipeline.