School grade padding in Florida helped district schools more than charters

netFlorida charter schools didn’t benefit as much as district schools from the school grades “safety net” that state education officials continued this summer.

According to Florida Department of Education data, 14.2 percent of the charter schools that have been graded so far would have dropped more than one letter grade had it not been for the safety net, which prevented schools from falling more than one letter grade. That compares to 21.7 percent of district schools.

In raw numbers, that’s 54 of 381 charter schools and 495 of 2,278 district schools. The numbers do not include school grades that are pending or incomplete.

Last month, the Florida Board of Education voted 4-3 to continue the safety net, which had been used in 2012, after superintendents complained that lower grades brought on by tougher standards would give the public a distorted view of student achievement. Tony Bennett, then the state education commissioner, initially expressed concerns about the safety net but later relented, saying it would help ease the transition to Common Core standards.

Bennett resigned two weeks later after news stories suggested he abruptly changed the school grades formula in Indiana to benefit a politically connected charter school.

As we reported last month, Florida charter schools again earned both A and F grades at higher rates than district schools.

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BY Patrick R. Gibbons

Patrick Gibbons is public affairs manager at Step Up for Students and a research fellow for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. A former teacher, he lived in Las Vegas, Nev., for five years, where he worked as an education writer and researcher. He can be reached at (813) 498.1991 or emailed at Follow Patrick on Twitter: at @PatrickRGibbons and @redefinEDonline.


A couple things, first something like 130 charter schools didn’t get grades so what do we really know and it is the charter school that did get help, the KIPP school that I wonder about. Chartrand has a lot riding on the success of the school and it dropping to a D has to be embarrassing for him.

Patrick R. Gibbons

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the comment. I pulled the data from the Florida Department of Education’s database. According to their data at this time, there are 51 charter schools with pending grades (high schools aren’t graded yet) and 5 charter schools with incomplete grades. “Incompletes” are given if the school reported scores for less than 90 percent of the students. There were also 41 schools with scores but no assigned grade yet neither marked pending or incomplete.

Of those 41, only 7 had grades last year to make a comparison. Of those 7, only one had their score drop by a letter grade which means with the low-achieving penalty it would have been possible, though not for certain, for them to drop 2 letter grades at most. Meanwhile, at least 2 appear to have increased a letter grade.

Conversely, there are 451 public schools with pending grades (again high schools) and 20 with incomplete grades.

Given this, it is unlikely the results will change.

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