Florida's A-to-F school grading formula could be simplified this year, changes that would mean high school grades would be available months earlier than they have been, and all schools would be graded by a less-complicated system.

The grading plan, put in place in 1999, has been under fire in recent months, criticized as overly complicated and not a true gauge of school quality. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart wants to streamline it, so it is easier to understand and free of provisions that "muddle the meaning of a school grade."

Stewart previously has discussed the changes in broad strokes and next week will present more concrete suggestions to the State Board of Education. The changes would require legislative approval as parts of the formula was dictated by the Florida Legislature.

Stewart's proposal would kick in after the state retires most of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and moves to a new set of standardized exams for language arts and math.


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Her suggestions, according to a presentation , focuses grades on two key provisions: how many students were proficient on state tests and how many improved from the previous year.

It eliminates a so-called penalty that required grades drop if a certain percentage of struggling students didn't improve, and it eliminates provisions that gave middle and high schools points if their students took advanced classes.

High school grades would be based on the test-score provisions as well as graduation rates and the percentage of students eligible for college credit because they did well on Advanced Placement exams or other similar tests.

The goal would be to have all school grades released in the summer. Now elementary and middle school grades are out then but high school grades often aren't out until December.¿

Stewart said last week her goal was a "simplified, more transparent school grading system" that would leave to "improved student performance."