BRADENTON -- Fixty-six percent of Florida students who took the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam will earn a passing grade -- meaning 44 percent won't meet the state graduation requirement -- if new achievement level benchmarks are passed by the state Board of Education.
No one is sure what that means for the Manatee School District, because the state sent the district its raw scores without reporting the achievement levels.
The preliminary achievement levels, called "cut scores," were released by the Florida Department of Education on Monday, just after the Florida Association of District School Superintendents announced they've "lost faith" in the state's accountability system.
New levels are necessary after students took new statewide tests tied to new standards in the spring. The new standards are a modification of the controversial Common Core standards, and the new tests were seen as much more rigorous than previous tests. The spring testing period was marred by computer issues, with students statewide reporting being booted off the system.
A third party ruled the test results were valid when looking at large groups -- including setting the new achievement levels and doling out school grades. But they also ruled the tests should not be used as the sole factor when making individual decisions about students, because the individual student's grades might be suspect.
New preliminary scores were released for English Language Arts exams for students in grades 3 through 10, math exams for students in grades 3 through 8 and end-of-course exams for Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2.
"These recommendations are in line with the performance we should expect from our state's students at each grade level for each
subject in order to prepare today's students for future success," education commissioner Pam Stewart said in a statement.
The scores won't be finalized until approved by the state board of education, which is expected to happen in January.
The new achievement levels keep the familiar Level 1 through 5 ranking, with Level 3 or above considered passing. Statewide, at least 50 percent of student would pass all but two exams, according to the preliminary ranking.
On the Algebra 2 end-of-course exam, 36 percent of students would earn a 3 or higher, according to the state data. On the grade 8 math test, 45 percent of students who earn a passing grade, according to the state data.
On Tuesday, the Manatee school district received raw data from the state, Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Cynthia Saunders said. District officials were working on inputting the raw data into formulas to see how the district students compare to the statewide scores put out by Stewart, she said.
Even putting the raw data into the formulas doesn't necessarily translate to the final rankings, since the scores still need to be finalized.
"I'm glad we're at least getting some information," Saunders said.
Districts are expecting more information from the state on Wednesday, and hope to make easier comparisons as to how Manatee County students compare with students across the state with that information.
"That's the way you have to look at it," Saunders said.
While the schools are bound to the state requirements and rulings, superintendents in Florida are expressing dissatisfaction with the system. Last week, superintendents from across the state met with Stewart about the testing issue.
The superintendents collectively decided they have lost confidence in the accountability system for students.
"School Superintendents throughout Florida are united in their concern that the current accountability system is not serving the best interests of our students, schools or state. I agree with this conclusion," Manatee County superintendent Diana Greene said in an email to district employees.
Superintendents are proposing changes at the state level, including:
Suspending any use of the results from the spring 2015 administration of the new tests for students, teachers or schools.
Issuing an "I" (Incomplete) if necessary, to all Florida schools for 2014-2015, based upon the availability of limited and flawed data.
Conducting an extensive review of the accountability system, including the multiple changes that have been implemented over the last several years.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.