Preliminary Florida school grades on decline

Number of F-rated schools more than doubled

By Erik Sandoval - Reporter

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Fewer Central Florida schools are at the head of the class when it comes to grades they received from the state.

The number of "A" schools plummeted by nearly 39 percent, and "F" schools nearly doubled.

[READ: Central Florida school grades PDF | Spreadsheet | BY COUNTY: Orange County | Osceola County]

The grades showed that the number of A-rated schools fell nearly 39 percent this year, while the number of F-rated schools more than doubled.

In Orange County, 48 schools maintained their grade of "A" from 2012 with three schools-- Azalea Park Elementary, Dillard St. Elementary, and Ocoee Middle -- moved to an "A" grade from a "B."

Nearly 60 percent of Orange County schools earned grades of "A" or "B," with 13 percent of Orange County schools received a "D" or "F."

Wheatley Elementary elevated to a "D" in 2013 year from the 2012 grade of "F."

In Osceola County, 56 percent of elementary and middle schools received an "A" or "B" grade. 39 percent received a "C" and 5 percent received a "D," with no schools getting an "F."

In Lake County, 50 percent of elementary and middle schools received an "A" or "B" grade.

Brevard County elementary schools earned 21 As, 25 Bs, eight Cs, one D and one F. Endeavour Elementary in Cocoa was the F school.

The number of F-rated schools could have been much higher. Earlier this month, the State Board of Education voted by a 4-3 margin to tweak the formula that allowed as many as 150 schools to avoid getting an F grade.

"If you teach to the test, you're playing Russian Roulette," said Orange County Schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins, who urges her teachers to teach the curriculum and not to the Florida assessment test, better known as the FCAT.

The way the state measures school progress with those FCAT scores has changed three times over the last five years.

"It started with FCAT 12 years ago," explained Orange County School Board Chairman Bill Sublette. "Then it went to Next Generation Sunshine State. Then it went to FCAT 2.0. Now, we're about to transition to another set of measurements."

Those measurements -- called "Common Core" -- will be implemented in the 2014 school year.

Sublette said the fact that Orange County had 60 percent of its schools make an "A" or a "B" on the report card proves the district is competitive, but he says the state needs to stop changing the rules so everyone can play fairly.

"We've got to get the state to give us a standard and let us stand on that standard and repeat on that standard for a reasonable period of time," he said.

With "Common Core" being phased in, that's not expected to happen, which leaves some to wonder if these letter grades for schools really matter.

"You're not going to be able to know what's showing up on the test from one year to the next," said Jenkins.

The results released on Friday only show elementary and middle school grades. Grades for high schools will be released in January.

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.