Parents call for better failing grade warnings from Manatee County School District

Parents call for better failing grade warnings from Manatee County School District

BRADENTON -- A group of parents concerned they're not given enough warning their students are failing state tests -- and subsequently pulled out of core classes and placed in intensive remediation courses -- shared their concerns Wednesday with Manatee County School District officials in hopes of improved collaboration.

District officials, including Superintendent Diana Greene, promised to look at student situations individually and take recommendations by the parents into consideration in how the district handles remediation.

"I think it came out really loud and clear tonight," Greene said.

Remediation is required for students who fail state-administered exams in math and English. Remediation is triggered regardless of how students fare in regular classes. For example, students who earn A's or B's in math classes may still be placed in remediation if they fail the state test.

That causes issues for parents such as Amy Lee, who helped organize the meeting. Lee said she monitors her children's grades and report cards, but was surprised to find out one of her children had been placed in a remedial math class this year based on test scores. The previous year, her child had gotten good grades in math.

"I felt like a failure as a parent. How was I supposed to know? I get the report card. I monitor grades," she said. "I could have done things differently at home."

Parents also questioned how effective the district remediation system is, calling it a "one-size-fits-all" approach that doesn't help students move out of remediation. Some parents had students in remediation for multiple years and they still haven't been able to pass the state tests.

"I think we're all asking for a review of the kinds of remediation our kids are getting," said parent Rebecca Evans. "Nobody here is saying we're against our children getting remediation."

The remediation issue was hampered this year by a change in testing last spring. Previously, students took Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests, and those results determined whether students went into remediation classes. Those test results were generally more trusted, Greene said, and not as many parents were upset with remediation

Last spring, for the first time, students took new tests -- based on newer, tougher standards -- called the Florida State Assessments.

Because of the outcry over the new tests, the fear huge numbers of students would fail and districts not being promised test results before the school year, the state returned remediation decisions back to the districts. The raw results have now come in.

Manatee County School District chose not to look at student results on the new FSA test. Instead, district officials used FCAT scores from the previous two years to determine whether students should be placed in remediation.

"Research says two to three years of data can help predict a student's performance," Greene said.

If a student failed the FCAT two years in a row, they'd likely fail it again and need the extra help, she said.

Cynthia Saunders, deputy superintendent of instruction, said if the student did pass the FSA they were pulled out of remediation during the first quarter of the school year. High school students also have a number of other options to be pulled out of remediation.

Saunders agreed the district could and would do more to help keep parents abreast as to whether their students were progressing in remediation courses and likely to pass the next state exams.

Since students will not be taking a brand-new test this year and the district now has some familiarity with the testing, such information will be easier to gather and pass along.

"That's what all of you need to be seeing," Saunders said.

Following the meeting, parents said they were pleased the district was willing to work with them on the issue.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter@MeghinDelaney.