Duval Says Grad Rate Could Fall With DOE Proposals

Apr 11, 2018

The Duval County School district says its graduation rate will likely tumble next year if the state Board of Education approves proposed new requirements.

That’s why the district’s staff is asking the public to join its opposition to the more rigorous standards.

What would change?

To get public school diplomas, Florida teens must pass two tests: the Florida State Assessment in reading and the Algebra I end-of-course exam.

Students who don’t pass those tests can instead score a 19 on the ACT reading portion or 430  on the SAT reading and writing section. Students can also take the math portion of the state-created Postsecondary Education Readiness Test, called P.E.R.T

A state proposal would change those concordant score standards.

For one, the minimum reading and writing SAT score would go from a 430 to a 480.

“Which is just a massive change or difference,” said Duval Assistant Superintendent for Accountability and Assessment Kelly Coker-Daniel. “That level of reading on the SAT is truly college-level reading and what the state requires is that students demonstrate reading on the 10th grade FSA.”

The ACT requirement would change from a 19 in reading, to an 18 average of both the reading and English sections.

The state also wants to use SAT or ACT math scores of 420 and 16, eliminating the use of P.E.R.T concordant scores altogether.

Why the changes?

A State Board of Education presentation shows the Buros Center for Testing at the University of Nebraska conducted a study on the alignment of the current accepted substitute scores.

It found the P.E.R.T to be too easy, saying it measured “content knowledge expected of students in elementary or middle school.”

The new SAT and ACT proposed passing scores are being recommended based on studying students who had taken one of those exams and the FSA in the same year. It uses percentile ranking to compare the scores.

SAT and ACT tests cost around $60 each and the P.E.R.T is covered by the district at 94 cents. For the past two years Duval has been paying for juniors to take the SAT or ACT one time during school, although most big districts don’t. Some low-income students also get vouchers to pay for the tests.

Graduation rate in jeopardy

Although the state is saying the current concordant scores are too easy, Coker-Daniel said the new proposals are closer to college-ready level, not 10th grade level, like the FSA.

The district applied the proposed standards to the last two graduating classes and found it would have meant a 11.3 percent decrease in graduates in 2016-17 and a 7.7 percent decrease in 2015-16, meaning 850 and 640 fewer graduates.

But the numbers are even higher among African-American students. Some individual schools could see a 15 percent graduation rate plunges, Coker-Daniel said.

“Ed White, Westside High School, Raines, Ribault are some of the schools we’re worried about,” she said.

School Board member Becki Couch has been one of the most vocal members against the changes, saying not only is she worried for students, she’s worried for the economy, citing Bureau of Labor data.

“When we talk about creating more jobs and opportunities, we’re looking at a difference of someone without a high school diploma earning $520 each week to someone who has a high school diploma earning $712 each week,” Couch said. “Those that don’t have a living wage often revert back to assistance from the government to live.”

She said if changes are made, they should at least be phased in, not affecting incoming seniors who’ve been told they’re on track. The changes would go into effect in August.

“It’s kind of moving the finish line while you’re in the race,” she said.

The Board of Education could vote on the new rules next month and is taking input from the public. Coker-Daniel said she’s having a conference call with principals Thursday morning and sending them information to hand out to parents and students.

Photo used under Creative Commons.

Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.